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LADY FILMS – “Frida”

26 May

HELLO!  It’s been so long since I’ve updated like a good little blogger.  Here are my excuses for why I’ve been absent, so put on your Forgiveness Pants:

  1. On the 11th, it was my birthday, and I was too busy partying/having an existential crisis because I am now 23 and that is scary/partying/stewing in my own sweat because we don’t have AC/partying/eating Mexican food/partying.
  2. Last Wednesday I was sick and when I tried to write the blog post, I actually coughed up one of my lungs onto the keyboard, and it was super gross and messy.  That didn’t really happen, but I was sick and I slept a lot.
  3. Also, I’ve been spending SO MUCH TIME looking for a job.  It’s as if looking for employment is my actual job.  I had an interview today, though, and I’ve been prepping for it a lot (and by “prepping,” I mean “FREAKING OUT”).

So do you forgive me?  I hope so, because I am here to make it up to you with DOUBLE LADY FILMS MADNESS!  TWO FOR THE PRICE OF ONE (EVEN THOUGH THE PRICE IS “FREE”)!  DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE, DOUBLE YOUR FUN!

And we couldn’t have picked two films that are more radically different.  In one corner, we have Frida, a biopic about bisexual Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, starring Salma Hayek!  In the other corner, we have Bridesmaids, chick comedy extraordinaire, starring Kristen Wiig and many other hilarious ladies!  DO YOU EVEN SEE HOW MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS I AM USING RIGHT NOW?!  I am having to bring DOUBLE THE EXCITEMENT!  Look!  All caps, too!

But seriously…

Frida

Much like my last Lady Film, Bright Star, Frida is a true story about a lady who loves art and the people who create it.  The film, which came out in 2002 and was directed by Julie Taymor, tells Frida Kahlo’s story, from the crippling bus crash she survived as a young woman, to her first art show and her death soon after.  For the most part, the film focuses on her marriage to famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera (played by Alfred Molina), a man known for his murals, his belief in Communism, and his womanizing ways.  The two have a tumultuous relationship full of infidelity.  Diego has sex with Frida’s sister, with nude models he uses for his artwork… basically anything that has boobs and is still breathing.  But that’s okay because Frida does the same!  She sleeps with Leon Trotsky!  She even sleeps with women Diego has already bedded.

They both sleep with this woman, but Frida took her out to breakfast afterwards, so clearly she wins.

Throughout all her marital struggles, and her numerous health problems, and a miscarriage, Frida learns to channel her anguish into her surrealistic paintings (although it’s worthwhile to note that Frida did not see her paintings as surreal; as she said, “I don’t paint from dreams or nightmares.  I paint my own reality”).  The film mirrors the aesthetic of Frida’s paintings, and there are a handful of beautiful shots where paintings blend into reality.

"The Two Fridas"

Frida is perhaps best-known for her multiple self-portraits.  She often “turned the camera” (paintbrush?) on herself.  Her paintings became explorations of her own identity, and that often included her identity as a woman.  As a historical figure, Frida Kahlo is already widely regarded as a feminist figure, due to her success, her “radical” lifestyle, and her keen observations on what it means to be a woman.

So does the film reflect that? Continue reading

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LADY FILMS, Week #1 – “Bright Star”

4 May

Yes, I know that there has been a drought as far as the ol’ blog goes lately.  But I am super excited to get started on my Lady Films series, and also I promise that there will be tons of amazing content coming up.  So bear with us.  Really, all the other Chickz are being responsible by doing their work and packing to move and being adults.  I’m blogging instead because it seems like a much more fun activity and I can procrastinate while actually feeling like I’m doing something, when really everyone knows that talking about movies and ladies is just fun for me.

To start with, I thought I’d do a film I already regard as a lady film; a film that inspired me to start this series in the first place:  Jane Campion’s Bright Star.

Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)

Bright Star follows the brief romance between now-respected, then-unsuccessful poet John Keats, and Fanny Brawne.  I adore this film, and I still think Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw should have received acting nods at the Academy Awards that year (not even just nods, they should have won).  It was hands-down my favorite film of 2009.  I love the simplicity of it, the way it lingers on certain moments and objects.  Early in the film, Keats says something about how poetry is like diving into a lake.  You don’t dive into the lake just to do it and then get out. You dive in to enjoy the water.  That’s what the film does.  It is the antithesis of most modern films in that regard.  When the characters are happy, the film bursts with light.  When they are less joyous, the look of the film reflects that.  The pacing is slow, but one almost wants it to slow down so that John and Fanny can have more time together, because we know that Keats is doomed.

In many ways, this film is Fanny’s and not John’s.  I would easily call this a feminist tale.  Fanny pursues John, not the other way around, and vies with his poet friend Brown (played by Paul Schneider) to protect him.  She is keen to learn of poetry and connects with John because they are both artists.  While Brown is quick to demean Fanny’s designing dresses and sewing her own clothing as a trivial thing women do, it is clear that this is Fanny’s art.  She puts her emotions into her clothing and wears them, quite literally, on her sleeve, just as we see Keats putting his heart into his poetry.  John and Fanny’s relationship is equal and scarcely bogged down with questions of gender roles, and Fanny makes it clear from the start that she could make money from her sewing if she needed to.

While this is a period piece, it very much sets itself apart from many other “drawing room dramas.”  Gone is the emotional score and swelling music telling you how to feel at certain points.  Everything is understated.  The only other comparable period dramas I can think of are Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility” and Joe Wright’s “Pride and Prejudice,” and I still think “Bright Star” is leaps and bounds ahead of those. Continue reading

Lady Films: A Primer

27 Apr

Lately, I’ve been pondering the concept of films made by and/or for women.  It seems a much smaller field than that of “literature made by and/or for women.”  That’s because, as sexist as basically every space on Earth can be, few are more sexist than Hollywood.

The New Yorker recently ran a “profile” of comic actress Anna Faris (from The House Bunny and The Hot Chick), and the article supposedly ballooned into this entire treatise on the state of women in Hollywood.  I can’t access the entire article, because I do not subscribe to The New Yorker (-2 hipster points for Lora), but there have been some notable excerpts popping up all over the web.  None of them are very encouraging:

Nicholas Stoller, the director of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek,” says…“You need to make the actress completely adorable, or else she’ll be thought of as the straight man or the bummer….

To make a woman adorable, one successful female screenwriter says, “You have to defeat her at the beginning. It’s a conscious thing I do – abuse and break her, strip her of her dignity, and then she gets to live out our fantasies and have fun. It’s as simple as making the girl cry, fifteen minutes into the movie. Relatability is based upon vulnerability, which creates likability.”

Faris gets million dollar offers for roles she calls “the girl,” or “bounce card roles,” after the reflective sheet that softens the light around an actor, because the whole job is to giggle, simper and coo. She told me, ‘I feel I did that in ‘My Super Ex-Girlfriend’ – a 2006 film in which her role consisted of allowing Luke Wilson to admire her ass and then turning with melting eyes as he ran off to have sex with Uma Thurman….[she said,] “These roles are destroying a generation of boys, who think we’ll forgive any kind of assholey behavior.”

(via RachelSimmons.com)

I’m not really going to delve into the logistics of this, or how it makes me feel, or how I’m learning to accept that this bullshit exists, because frankly I don’t need to cry myself to sleep tonight.  But I will say this:  the quotes above and the attitudes and behavior that they acknowledge exist in Hollywood are the exact reasons why I so passionately want to see films that positively portray women, even if I end up having to make those films myself.

So, if I’m going to do this, I want to know, without a doubt, what a good film for, by and about women would look like.  I’m not talking “chick flicks.”  I hate that term.  Rather, I’m dubbing them “lady films.”

lady film (noun) – A film that has well-rounded, non-stereotypical female characters and female-oriented plots.  It can specifically be made by or for women, or not.  The female characters are realistic, and the ideas put forth in the film do not set out to offend women; rather, the film might even empower its female audience. Continue reading

ACADEMIC DOOMSDAY IS NIGH! Use this playlist to survive.

20 Apr

Okay, yes, from now until the end of the school year in two weeks or so (maybe?  I don’t know what day it is, help me), me and the other Chickz will probably be suh-lammed with work – writing and studying and essaying and researching until our eyes bleed.  And right now I should be writing a screenplay and then also a lit paper and a “reflective essay,” and I should be packing things to take home this weekend so when I move out soon there will be less to take and maybe I should also go to the store and do laundry, and obviously I’m not doing any of those things because I’m typing this instead.  But I will take time out of my packed schedule (it wouldn’t be packed if I wasn’t a procrastinator, but such is the way of the world) to give you two things:

1.)  A big ol’ THANKS!  Thanks to everyone who has supported the Chicklitz, by reading our blog and coming to our reading and buying our chapbook, etc.  You rock, and you should know that about yourselves.

2.)  THIS PLAYLIST THAT I AM MAKING FOR ALL YOUR LATE NIGHT STUDYING NEEDS!  (And yes, Elysia and Lindsey, I stole this idea from Autostraddle, but NO1CURR.)

I am designing it to optimize creativity, brain waves, intelligence, awareness, etc.  So grab that can of Red Bull and your headphones and let’s DO THIS.  You can stream the mix HERE (do it, I worked so hard on it), or click on individual links for YouTube videos. Continue reading

Without Ramona, Where Would I Be?

13 Apr

I am newly obsessed with looking back on my childhood and trying to pinpoint events or even cultural landmarks in my life that made me who I am today.  There’s one thing I almost always come back to:  Ramona Quimby.

From the ages of seven to thirteen, I would wager, I Ramona weaved in and out of my life.  I listened to Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” books on cassette tape to go to sleep almost every night.  I feel bad for the other kids in the New Albany/Floyd County area who might have wanted to listen to those tapes, because I almost always had them checked out of the library.  I also owned all the books.  I especially remember “Ramona Forever,” which was perhaps my favorite.  My copy of it was slender and narrow, and it fit in my back pocket perfectly.  I carried it around everywhere.

Ramona appears in twelve of Cleary’s books, first starting out in the Henry Huggins series as Beezus’s annoying little sister, and then growing into her own series of novels.  In order, they are:

Henry Huggins (1950)
Henry and Ribsy (1954)
Beezus and Ramona (1955)
Henry and the Paper Route (1957)
Henry and the Clubhouse (1962)
Ramona the Pest (1968)
Ramona the Brave (1975)
Ramona and Her Father (1977)
Ramona and Her Mother (1979)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1981)
Ramona Forever (1984)
Ramona’s World (1999)

Tuesday was Beverly Cleary’s 95th birthday, and the New York Times did an awesome piece on her to celebrate.  One of the things Cleary set out to do with her children’s novels was to write books that she would have wanted to read as a child.  From the NYT article:  “‘I longed for funny stories about the sort of children who lived in my neighborhood,’ Cleary wrote in one of her memoirs, My Own Two Feet.”  Cleary treated the children she wrote about the same way she treated the adults, and I think that’s important.  It was almost revolutionary in children’s literature at the time, and maybe it still is.  The problems that characters like Ramona and Henry Huggins and Beezus had were very real; she never passed judgment or trivialized them because they were children and “children shouldn’t have serious problems.”  She realized that kids aren’t stupid.

When Beezus and Ramona’s father is unemployed, it affects everyone in the family.  Ramona and Beezus are all too aware of it, trying to make things easier on their parents, stressing about the situation as much as mom and dad are, and attempting to ignore their own wants and needs, feeling they are a strain on their parents.  I think these are sentiments most children can relate to.  Hearing my parents argue about money caused many of my adolescent stresses and concerns.  Cleary scarcely differentiated between adult problems and child problems, and as a kid, it was refreshing to read that maybe me and my worries and opinions mattered more than I was originally led to believe. Continue reading

Girl Power vs. Feminism in Film

6 Apr

So now you’ve heard about the AWESOME time Layne and Elysia had at Slash Pines (by the way, I want to know where the name of the festival came from.  Does it take place in a forest where all the trees look like this:  //\\/\/\\///\?).

But what did the other Chickz do that weekend?!  This is the question you didn’t even know was burning a hole in your brain until just now!  Basically, we partied.  Also, Lindsey and I, along with our friend Ben, went to see “Sucker Punch.”  And Ashley and our buddy Spencer went to see “Insidious,” which made them unable to use the bathroom alone for at least four hours after the film.  Also I went to Butler to watch them win their game against that one team, before they lost the final game on Monday against that other team.  But most importantly, THERE WERE PARTIES IN THE STREETS.  That was fun.  While I was gone, Ashley wore a mink coat around Muncie.

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT THIS POST IS ABOUT, BECAUSE THERE ARE ENOUGH CHICKLITZ HISTORIANS AND I DON’T EVEN OWN A CAMERA.

So let’s get down to business (to defeat the Huns #Mulan).

——-

So yes, I went to see “Sucker Punch.”  Did I know it was probably going to suck?  Yes.  Did it suck?  Mostly.  It was neat looking and I was entertained.  That’s about all it had to offer.  So why did I see it?

Okay, I genuinely like to support films that have women headlining them.  And this one has, like, six women.  You see, if these films fail, Hollywood won’t blame the director (unless it’s a female director) and they won’t blame the timing, or the quality of the film.  They will blame it on the fact that “people don’t see films about women.”  As someone who loves pop culture and who wants to see more Hollywood films that reflect a larger variety of experiences and treat women as equal to men, I feel a responsibility to support as many films about women as I can.  I saw “Sex and the City” in theaters, and I’d never even seen the show, nor could I relate to ANYTHING about it (if it was called “Celibate in the City,” that’d be a different story). Continue reading

My love affair with television is one for the ages.

30 Mar

Okay, guys, I know I wrote recently about how I don’t “get” romantic love.  But there is another type of love that I do get.  I’m always the type of person to find pieces of pop culture and fall madly in love with them.  Songs I’ll listen to until I can’t hear them ever again, movies I’ll watch until I know every line, hours spent on Tumblr looking at cast pictures and reading what other people have to say about my favorite TV shows.  I’m obsessive, and mostly unapologetic about it.

Case in point:  I went through a pretty intense “Star Wars” phase (we’re talking posters, action figures, books, an actual lightsaber, a fan club membership… everything).  I was ostracized and ridiculed for it (particularly by one “friend” who is actually just a miserable human being) but I always tried to be honest about my obsession.  It was the purest kind of love.  It made me have swoopy stomach feelings thinking about it, I daydreamed about being a Jedi in class, I drew lightsabers in my notes like girls might write “Mrs. Justin Timberlake” in their notes.  I have a framed photo of me standing next to a Darth Vader and R2-D2 made of Legos (it kind of looks like a prom photo, no lie).

That's not me, but you get the idea.

Eventually my “Star Wars” fervor cooled down and I became interested in much cooler things.  Indie music, classic literature, foreign films, and all that pretentious shit.  I was still a pop culture obsessed dork, but I had diversified.

Except for when it comes to television.  I am in love with television.  I think it is the perfect artistic medium.  I think we’re in a Golden Age of television.  I think that television is a great way to bring about social justice and understanding.  When I picture my perfect job, I picture a job in television.  Let me expound on this. Continue reading

Musicians Writers Should Know

23 Mar

So I started this 30 Day Song Challenge over on Tumblr.  I post one song a day using these guidelines:

  • Day 01 – Your favorite song
  • Day 02 – Your least favorite song
  • Day 03 – A song that makes you happy
  • Day 04 – A song that makes you sad
  • Day 05 – A song that reminds you of someone
  • Day 06 – A song that reminds you of somewhere
  • Day 07 – A song that reminds you of a certain event
  • Day 08 – A song that you know all the words to
  • Day 09 – A song that you can dance to
  • Day 10 – A song that makes you fall asleep…

Etc.

It got me thinking about music, which I usually think about a lot, but haven’t been doing as much of lately.  Usually I’m the type of person who considers it like a hobby to find new music to listen to and collect and share (mostly for free because I’m poor).  I enjoy reading music criticism and just going on random Internet searches for new stuff.  Me and my sister have an unofficial competition to find new bands before the other does.  She might even be more intense about it than I am.

Paige, if you see this, don't be mad at me.

She’s a snob.  It’s adorable.

THE POINT THAT I AM GETTING AT IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY IS:  I think music is hella important to a writer’s life and career.  I think if you ask most writers about their writing process, it is probably going to include music somewhere along the line.  I know people who listen to jazz when they write, people who listen to movie soundtracks, people who listen to folk.  Some people use songs as jumping off points or inspiration for their writing.  For example, the first real poem I ever wrote was about Joni Mitchell’s “River” (I think I’ve mentioned that on here before and I thought about posting it but I just now read it again and realized that it SUUUUUUCKS).

But more importantly, I think we should acknowledge musicians as storytellers.  Well, some musicians more than others.  I think there’s characterization and story in almost every song if you look for it, and obviously someone had to write it.

So today I thought I’d compile a list (“We get it, Lora, you like lists”) of musicians who blur the lines between writer and musician.  It’ll probably be a short list, but we’ll see.

Joni Mitchell

Shocking, I know, but Joni is a songwriting master.  She is one of the few people who has written songs that make me bawl like a baby.  I remember when I first came up to Ball State, I would walk around campus and listen to “California,” and when the lyrics, “Oh, it gets so lonely/when you’re walkin’/and the streets are full of strangers” came on, I would be thankful I was wearing sunglasses because I would totally be tearing up.  It’s so simple, yet so pretty.  Besides her lyrical and emotional beauty, she is a legitimate storyteller.  “The Last Time I Saw Richard” is basically a short story set to song.  And like almost all writers, she writes what she knows.  Her songs are about hippies and friends and warm California days and bumming around Europe and skating on rivers.  She has made a world in which her songs and the people in them live.

Continue reading

This post is a hot mess.

16 Mar

I’ve been debating on what to write about all day (which I do every Tuesday, because I write my posts on Tuesday nights after going to Ball State’s Writer’s Community with the Chickz).  I have so many ideas, and none of them are fully thought-out – they’re the fetuses of ideas, really.  So (and this might come as a shock to y’all), I’mma do a list post again, or really just a crazy potpourri post of madness.

And I know I do this all the time (or at least twice now), but I love it, I really do.  Ultimately, I REGRET NOTHING.

Thoughts I Had About Writing Over My Spring Break

1.)  I realized that the type of writing I’m drawn to is not the type of writing I’m best at.  I could spend a year editing one serious essay or some lyrical piece of flash fiction and in the end, I doubt it would get such a positive reaction as I get from my written-on-the-fly, hardly edited, ranty/bitchy blog posts.  AND MAYBE I’M OKAY WITH THAT NOW.  But still, when I think the words “good writing,” I think of lyrical writing and poetry.  Just like comedies get ignored at the Oscars, humor is often overlooked as a genre of writing, whereas flowery poetry and cerebral works of fiction and the like are “The King’s Speech” of the literary world.  And goodness knows that blogging isn’t really considered a viable form of literature, not yet.  Anyone can do it, that’s the problem.  But I think there’s true art in making something that is interactive, contains multiple forms of media, is self-aware, pop culture savvy, and can draw in an audience like a well-written and well-promoted blog post can do (and promotion is half the battle in the blogosphere).  Regardless, I feel like my style of writing is not credible enough.  Most of my writing nowadays is either blogging or writing screenplays, and I think I’m good at that, but now the Chickz are prepping for a reading and I HAVE NOTHING TO READ.  It’s really stressing me out and I don’t feel like a real “writer” because of this.  And maybe I’m not.  Maybe I’m just a blogger.  But if I am, then I think I’m doing what I’m good at, and maybe eventually I can accept that about Lora the Writer.

2.)  I found this quote on the Interwebs:  “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – Ray Bradbury, from Zen in the Art of Writing.  It really resonated with me.  I really just want to retreat into this cocoon of words and stories lately.  I have so many ideas, and I spend a lot of my free time thinking about what I can write, but I feel like I have little time to actually write those ideas (that, and I’m scared shitless about actually sitting down and putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.  It’s like, carrying a baby is difficult, but birthing the sucker is the real bitch).  I just kind of wish that real life would stop interfering.  I don’t want to go to my science class, I don’t want to go grocery shopping, I don’t want to worry about money.  On one hand, it feels good that writing is actually becoming a part of my identity and I’m actually having IDEAS.  On the other hand, I have a hard enough time overcoming my social anxieties and all the things that keep me from being a real adult without also being blinded by my writing.  How does one make time in their life to be drunk on writing without simultaneously falling into a black hole of nothingness?  I’m stumped.

3.)  No, but seriously.  The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced I just want to be a professional blogger.  Maybe do a few books.  Have a TV show.  I want to live life on my opinions, my unique (read: bitchy) way of expressing those opinions, my personality, and the super weird faces I can make.

The Mystery Chick

So, in the Chicklitz group, we often feel as if there’s someone missing.  A phantom limb Chick, if you will.  We have decided that she is blonde and super unreliable (because she never shows up to our gatherings).  I have decided to give her an identity.

Continue reading

Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about (how about love love loooooove?)

9 Mar

Last night I went on a date with this hottie mcdottie.

THAT’S ME.  Look at that Goodwill t-shirt and those Target brand knock-off Wayfarer shades.  Who the hell wouldn’t want to date that?

Well, everyone, apparently.  Or no one.  Whatever.  The point is that I don’t do dates with other people.  Partly because no one wants a piece of this and partly because I don’t want a piece of them.

The point is that I don’t get love.  Sure, I get familial love, and I love my dog, and I love my friends (although I’ve never been comfortable telling them – me and my sister are barely at the point where we can say, “love you,” on the phone).  But I don’t see why romantic love is so necessary.  Maybe it’s because I spent so long trying to learn how to get over depression and love myself.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always been chunky and I never thought anyone would be interested in me.  I’m mostly past that now – I like myself okay, and I’ve accepted the fact that there could be someone out there with eclectic taste who might go for me – but I still feel like it’s not as important as people make it out to be. Continue reading