Movie watch 2016: Superhero Problems

Last year was a year for disgruntled superheroes. I already recommended Captain America: Civil War, in which heroes brawl over a UN resolution, and the much hated Suicide Squad, featuring criminals forced to fight a supernatural evil. I had more mixed feelings about Squad‘s precursor Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where one can witness even more battling saviors. In this case, Batman flies off the rails and turns against Superman due to Lex Luthor’s manipulations, and Superman has a very bad day. Wonder Woman also makes a brief but formidable appearance. While fairly entertaining, Dawn of Justice is both slow and convoluted. Jesse Eisenberg’s young Luthor has been criticized for differing wildly from the source material, but I found his twitchy performance to be by far the brightest spot in the film. No longer a calculating old-school businessman, Luthor is now a long-haired, narcissistic genius for the age of Google and Microsoft.

I also reviewed Deadpool, featuring a comic book character who alternates between hero and villain. In his movie, he’s a pop-culture referencing anti-hero, a mercenary turned mad superhuman by a brutal experiment. The sophomoric humor and graphic violence will not work for everyone, but the film’s enthusiasm and tight script generated enough energy to attract large audiences.

 

Movie watch 2016: Musicals

I am neither a musical fanatic nor a hater, but I do not generally seek out musicals. The few music-related films I watched last year were recommended by others.

The French Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) (see my review here) should delight those who love a song a minute, romantic couples, and deliciously shot towns in southern France. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) is not a musical in the same sense, but it includes numerous songs mouthed by its drag queens played by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp as they travel across the Australian outback. The sometimes poignant story revolves around a gay man traveling to meet his son for the first time. Along the way, he and his companions find themselves in both tense and ludicrous situations. In spite of some misogyny and an egregiously racist series of scenes, this comedy, considered a classic by many and a key moment in MOGAI film history, is for those looking for a fabulous splash of color in the desert and a representation of characters who are unapologetically themselves in the face of a stunned society.

Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe (2007) creates a movie musical out of songs by The Beatles. The film is as visually innovative as one would expect from Taymor, but the plot is lacking and the pacing slow. Some may love the kaleidoscopic nature of Universe, while others, like myself, might do little more than appreciate the aesthetic fantasia and familiar tunes, competently sung and adapted.

If you’re tepid about musicals, consider yourself warned, and if you’re a Broadway-head, check out Rochefort, Priscilla (if you haven’t seen either the movie or the theatrical adaptation), and Universe.

Beginning the new year with… Una.

Disclaimer: I have seen neither the movie Una (2016) nor the play Blackbird (2005), on which the film is based. Some described it as Lolita years later fifteen years later, from Lolita’s perspective. I read that Rooney Mara plays Una, a young woman who confronts her abuser Ray (Ben Mendelsohn) years after their “relationship.” The first review that popped up in Google was that by Peter Debruge, chief reviewer with Variety

The article itself disturbs me as much as the film content. The writer refers to pedophilia as “a love that dared not speak its name” and the abuse in Una as “a love affair in which at least one party never stopped caring.” To be clear, a middle-aged man had a sexual relationship with a thirteen year old girl. This is in no way “a love affair” or a pure affection forbidden by society’s cruel mores. Debruge continues:

Her fixation on Ray is so intense that we almost feel sorry for him. He may have ruined her life by promising to take her away to Europe and then abandoning her in a small-town bed and breakfast, but there’s no question that she would ruin his if he only invited this simultaneously brittle and determined femme fatale back into his life.

He refers to a woman suffering from trauma due to child sexual abuse as a “femme fatale” and indicates that we should pity pedophiles who ruin young girls’ lives. The movie and play may show an emotional bond between Ray and Una or depict seemingly genuine remorse from Ray, but I’m confused as to why Una should be content with her lot in life while Ray should be excused from such a fate. Also, did he abandon her a bed and breakfast when she was merely a child? Not only is that extremely dangerous, it also understates the way grooming and raping a young person can ruin one’s life–trips to motels (or rather kidnapping) aside.

The author then notes that the sadism of the situation emerges more on film than in the play: “It’s as if instead of showing ‘Lolita’ from Humbert Humbert’s p.o.v., little Dolores Haze had grown up and taken matters into her own hands.” This statement suggests that it is more twisted and sadistic to turn the tables on a sexual predator than to be a sexual predator, more “comfortable” to watch stories about pedophilia from the pedophile’s perspective.

The only highlight in this shockingly cavalier review was this comment by WandaSes:

we almost feel sorry for him? Is this writer a psychopath? The whole movie is about her confronting him for what he did to her. This writer is a sick, sick person.

I don’t know what I’ll think about the film if I see it. I also don’t know how many more deplorable reviews like this will pop up. Until then, thank you WandaSes!