Sunday, September 20, 2015
The past season of Inside Amy Schumer felt built for shares and retweets and pins and whatever other way media caroms in the echo chamber that is the Internet. From a Friday Night Lights parody that hung a lantern on rape culture to an episode-long 12 Angry Men-style drama about whether or not Amy Schumer is hot enough to be on TV, the comedian and her staff seemed to be going out of their way to both address and subvert all the issues everyone with a Twitter account was either needlessly or – more importantly – justifiably having kittens over. If the comedy wasn't so good, if it wasn't so spot-on and hilarious, it might have seemed pedantic.
Trainwreck made for a sort of exclamation mark following Inside Amy Schumer's much lauded third season. The announcement of the film, though, the year before contextualized Schumer's relevance with the fact that star-maker Judd Apatow would be directing the film written by and starring Schumer. By the time the film was released, Apatow's involvement felt inconsequential, eclipsed by Schumer's acumen and momentum. Yet, the ad campaigns for Trainwreck were lagging behind. The poster doesn't use Schumer's name but includes the banner:
Chatelaine tracked the trend of burying the female leads in these comedies, instead using the cadre of male funny-makers as the bait. To slip into the minds of the studios, this move is probably for the purposes of delineation. A woman featured prominently on a movie poster – I'm imagining their line of thinking here – runs the risk of suggesting that that movie's a "chick flick" and scaring off dudes. Distracted by the prominence of male producers – The Guy or The Guys – dudes might be tricked into see a good, funny movie about a woman starring a woman.
Bridesmaids stands as an odd touchstone, where it dawned on culture that women could be funny. But there's a catch there. It wasn't that women as leads hadn't been feasible up until then. Broad venues just weren't being made available. The people ponying up the dough didn't trust that the ticket-buying public would watch a movie where a woman shit in a sink or in the middle of the road for comedic effect. But it turned out that people with money did like seeing that, and since Bridesmaids there's been an increasing trust from the studios in the bankability of women.
Certain miserable, wrongheaded bags of shit might see the increasing prominence of women as leads in popular culture as some insidious feminist coup. Certainly this most recent season of Inside Amy Schumer was pointed and scathing enough to make it seem like the show had an agenda, and if it did, it hit all its marks, generating tons of worthwhile conversation. But Trainwreck has little to none of Schumer's directed issue tackling. The Amy character – the titular trainwreck – is similar to many of characters that appear on the TV show, but the movie itself doesn't deviate that wildly from a strong, conventional comedy. Yes, the typical gender rolls are flipped, but that switch isn't played as revolutionary. For all the social progress Schumer has recently made with her show, the sheer regularness of Trainwreck – and I should stress that I'm not slagging the movie; it's a deft hoot – is in itself a triumph. Trainwreck isn't out to change the world, but with the movie Schumer occupies a strong and effortless place in pop culture. Needing to hitch what she's doing to The Guy or The Guys by now seems like a vestigial move.
Monday, September 14, 2015
Dramatically, hipster millennials – or caricatures of millennials, or caricatures of hipsters, because to imply that a portrayal of an age or cultural group is absolute is to cruise for a bruise – offer a unique challenge. Desire is the engine of traditional drama. A character wants something, reaches for it, and something or someone stands in their way. Conflict ensues, story is created. But what happens to drama when that desire is muddy or inarticulate? Millennials or hipsters, in the most egregious examples, suffer from a conflicting blend of apathy and hyperbole. If desire is absent or disingenuous, from where does the drama come?
Fort Tilden is seemingly simple. Harper and Allie meet a couple of guys at a party they're barely tolerating. Harper is a trust fund "artist" and Allie has plans to join the Peace Corps. They attach themselves to these guys' beach plans the next day with the promise of bringing along molly – aka MDMA. If we're charting the drama, their "want" is to go to Fort Tilden to meet these guys. The only thing standing in their way is their inability to function at the most basic level, to navigate from point A to point B. There are points where Harper and Allie start to feel like Vladimir and Estragon running late to meet Godot.
Harper and Allie are both light and scathing examples of a certain type of "kids these days," operating solely for the cachet of an experience rather than the substance. Sticking these two clueless, quixotic characters into a simple want/conflict trajectory makes for a surprisingly fun urban epic. It's hipster portrayal lands somewhere between the goofiness of Portlandia and the dark bleakness of The Comedy. In a way, the lack of drama becomes a generator of drama; the lack of any real conflict becomes true conflict.
Welcome back to another year of Guelph Movie Club, kids. It’s our monthly celebration of movies we love, movies we have to see again on the big screen. Our first show of the year screens at The Bookshelf Cinema October 1st at 9:00 p.m. I know what you’re thinking, but that’s barely October, so we’re counting it as our September show.
Just like the first days of school, let’s start off with some show and tell.
Item 1: Harrison Ford. Is he a man? Is he a replicant? Who knows?
Item 2: Blade Runner. Is it The Bookshelf Cinema Essential Cinema? Is it a Guelph Movie Club selection? Who knows?
Well, at least for Item 2, I do. It’s both.
Yes, this month, we’ll watch Blade Runner: The Final Cut as the Guelph Movie Club selection for September. But, it’s also serving double duty as the Essential Cinema selection. Movies are neat like that, aren’t they? On one hand, it’s a classic piece of cinema directed Ridley Scott based on the equally classic story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. It’s been critically acclaimed, dissected, and endlessly analyzed. It’s clearly worthy of a spot on the Essential Cinema list.
But, it’s also clearly a movie we love. Google “Blade Runner fan theories” if you don’t believe me. Seriously, I know someone who owns all 200 versions of the movie (OK, there’s four or something, but don’t quote me on that). So yeah, it’s also clearly our kind of movie. Be sure to check it out on October 1st at 9:00 p.m.
If you’re new to Guelph Movie Club, here’s how it works. At each of our screenings, we ask for suggestions. We turn those suggestions into polls. Those polls decide what goes up on the screen each month. Here's our spooky poll for Halloween. We'll announce the results at the screening of Blade Runner.
Which film are you publicly willing to wet your pants on account of?
Till then, see you at the movies.