February 6, 2018

February's Mystery Movie Third Clue

Clue #3: This month's movie features some mind-blowing practical effects work.

Tape Freaks Presents: February's Mystery Movie at the Trylon Cinema, Wednesday, February 7th @ 7:00pm, only $5!

Colette's Birthday: The Professional

Early last month I got into an argument with a friend of mine about this iconic film from my childhood. We were talking about what I should screen this month and she suggested the Professional. I looked her dead in the face and waited to see if she would realize why there's no way I'd play that film (no matter how much I loved it as a 15 year old), but she only stared back in confusion.

A 12 year old Natalie Portman.
Let me pause this story to tell you about my experience watching the Professional as a teen. Never before had I seen a movie whose protagonist was a girl so close to my own age. She was badass, and I loved her. Now, let me tell you what happened when I revisited the Professional in my twenties: I was creeped the fuck out. When I was 15, I was totally unaware of exactly how sexual the relationship between Leon and Mathilda was, but in my twenties it was very obvious. [Though to be fair to 15 year old Colette, the version I was watching in my 20s I might have been the European cut where the pedophilia is much more explicit.] From what I can remember (because I haven't watched it since then) Leon comes off as being very restrained about his "feelings" for Mathilda even though she (as a 12 year old) makes blatant passes at him, and by the end of the film Leon is basically portrayed as a saint because he doesn't sleep with her. This movie I had thought was about a badass girl was actually a movie about how men are tempted by engaging sexually with children, not because the men are vile, but because the underage girls are actively seducing them.

Now back to my argument with my friend; she was INSISTENT that I was wrong about my more recent take on the film. After all, she had watched the Professional a multitude of times in her youth and never picked up on pedophilia. She (like 15 year old me) saw the Leon/Mathilda relationship as a father/daughter master/protege sort of dynamic, and my friend was absolutely not pleased that I would insinuate otherwise. (Fifteen year old me would agree with her completely).

But then a few days later, this article about director Luc Besson came through my feed. The whole thing confirms my stance, but especially this bit:
"Besson [32 at the time] did not only date a minor, he also impregnated her. At the age of 16, Besco gave birth to Besson’s daughter, Shanna Besson. Besson has never actually been convicted for statutory rape because he is from France, and the age of consent there is 15. In his own country, he isn’t legally guilty of the crime, but does that really excuse anyone from preying on a minor? Keep in mind that the age of sexual consent in France is 15, but a minor is still anyone under the age of 18."
When I shared this article with my friend, this was her response: "Why does everything I loved as a kid turn out to be about pedophilia?!"

Honestly, same.

But let's unpack that a bit. Firstly, as kids there's no context for us to notice the sexualization of characters in film, so when we revisit things as adults we're blindsided by it having been there at all. Secondly, there's always been precious little positive representation of girls in film (never mind women), so when we see that representation we often overlook lots of problems simply because we don't have anything to compare. Combine those two factors and you have this really fucked up layer-cake of conditioning. We're taught to turn a blind eye to being sexualized, that our self-worth must be tied to the approval of the men around us, brutality against us is normalized (so we don't resist it in real life), we're conditioned to not question the actions of questionable men, and so so much more unpleasantness. And for the filmmaker, making films like this has a dual purpose: they obviously get to watch their deepest fantasies played out on screen but also, they're able to condition a large group of potential victims all at once. Nothing legitimizes something like being projected on a screen, larger than life and lit the fuck up.

Unless you count the deafening silence of society at large where there should be collective outcry, that's what actually legitimizes these shit stains.

But, these are not just problems that women face while watching movies, in the above scenario you could substitute any marginalized group of people for women and many points would still hold true. There's an excellent episode of Master of None (yes, I know) that touches on Short Circuit 2's use of brown face and how deeply problematic that is. They also talk about and how fooled they were as kids about the wholesomeness of that character. (Ansari (again, I know) wrote a great Times piece on the topic that you can read here.) But that's just one example; there's a multitude of tropes applied to LGBTQA characters, Native American characters, disabled characters, Black characters, et al. that seed deeply in viewers problematic notions of the real world people being depicted. And as I mentioned before, the real life people being depicted in those tropes internalize those harmful stereotypes, making for some fucked up stuff to have to unlearn later in life.

A 12 year old Natalie Portman 
But I digress, The Professional is a deeply fucked up movie*, however it's not the only fucked up movie. Nor is Besson the only fucked up filmmaker still making films. And enjoying fucked up things before you realized they're fucked up isn't the problem; the real problem starts when we ignore that those things are fucked up after people start exposing them to be fucked up. We need to start having productive conversations about how our faves are problematic, and we need to start listening to each other when those conversations happen. Seriously, I don't want yet another generation of girls (or anyone else for that matter) to grow up and realize that while watching movies in those sweet respites from life, that they were being conditioned to be preyed upon by others.

*The first comment on that article points to this Cracked list where the Professional appears in the #1 spot. What it reveals is absolutely fucked up, and unequivocally damning. 

February 5, 2018

Colette Birthday: Movies Colette Has Insisted Izzi Watch

Kickass illustrator, film aficionado, and occasional Tape Freaks contributor Izzi Xiques has compiled another list of films we've forced her to watch! (See her lists on movies Tim's insisted she watch here and here.) 

Tim is responsible for plenty of movies I was resistant to watch but ended up loving, but Colette is responsible for a fair share as well. And when Colette insists on a movie, it usually ends up being extremely kick-ass! So for her birthday, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite kickass films she has brought into my life.

Looper (2012): I was super opposed to watching Looper because as far as I could tell from watching the trailers, it was just another mainstream action flick. But, it was made by Rian Johnson (who I've been fan of since seeing his 2005 crime noir Brick), so I really should have known better. This intelligent film does not disappoint as it dismantles sci-fi tropes and bursts at the seams with heart; it's an unexpected breath of fresh air.

RoboCop (1987): This one I'd actually seen many years ago and had totally written it off as boring. When Colette found out that's how I felt, she insisted I revisit it because she could not accept that it didn’t land with me. Here's what Colette knew about this movie that now I know too: Robocop is a cinematic masterpiece. Honestly, E.D. 209 alone had me hooked, but it's also witty, smart, never takes itself too seriously, and gets gritty AF! I am very glad I gave it a second shot.

They Live (1988): Every time the Tape Freaks household's laundry is done, Colette wears her Atomic Cotton They Live shirt first, so I'm honestly surprised we hadn't watched this film sooner. (And about a week after we watched it the Trylon announced they were playing it on 35mm!) Just before we finally sat down to watch it, Colette told me many pop culture things were going to suddenly make sense, which they definitely do now. Wow. I also discovered that sometimes fight scenes that seem too long are actually just right...

Demon Knight (1995): Okay so Colette didn’t personally show this one to me, but this was her pick for year for her birthday screening last year, and it was life changing. This Tales From the Crypt film is so much fun but really, what could top Jada Pinkett Smith fighting demon Billy Zane to the death? Nothing, that's what. (Well, a sequel that featured Pinkett as the ultimate badass she clearly is could have topped it, but no surprise, they dropped the ball on that one.)

February 4, 2018

February's Mystery Movie: Second Clue

Clue #2: This month's movie has two different cuts as well as two different titles.

Tape Freaks Presents: February's Mystery Movie at the Trylon Cinema, Wednesday, February 7th @ 7:00pm, only $5!

Colette's Birthday: Yacht Rock

Oh hello, you've caught smooth groove aficionado, kickass illustrator, and occasional Tape Freaks contributor Izzi Xiques relaxing in her music nook!

James Ingram and Michael McDonald
Colette and I met while working at a mind numbing retail job that piped in bland overhead music, and if you've ever worked a retail job that had it's own soundtrack, you are probably just familiar with the smooth sounds of soft rock as we are. Hell, just shopping in retail settings should make you familiar with the voices of Michael McDonald, Hall and Oates, Toto, and Kenny Loggins. But have you ever wondered how those smooth grooves came to be? The answer to those questions you never asked are all answered in the best twelve episode mini series ever made about the interconnected musical collaborations of the soft rock movement now forever known as Yacht Rock.

Eddie Van Halen and Michael Jackson
Yacht Rock is the brainchild of J. D. Ryznar, Hunter D. Stair, Lane Farnham and follows protagonists Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins from the birth of smooth in late 70s through it's resurgence in the smooth rap of the 90s. Michael McDonald, is our scrappy underdog who fights tooth and nail to keep smooth music alive, even as the 80’s hard rocks starts to take over the airwaves. Loggins on the other hand rolls with the punches and adapts to mainstream music as it changes, trying desperately to drag McDonald with him. But episodes don't always focus on those two, there's also a feud between The Eagles and Steely Dan, an episode that reveals what's truly responsible for the birth of smooth gangster rap, episodes also feature Michael Jackson, Hall and Oats, Christopher Cross, and so much more. The collaborations are all true, the stories behind the collaborations are… debatable.

Even though Yacht Rock ruthlessly pokes fun at a lot of huge stars (from those eras), all the teasing comes from a place of love, making it equally enjoyable for people who are trapped in a retail world filled with gentle grooves as well as true fans of the music. It’s honestly hard to deny what a gem this series is, so much so that John Oates (as well as others depicted in the series) credit the resurgence of smooth rock fans to Yacht Rock. Michael McDonald even gave his seal of approval, hinting that even though the show isn't exactly accurate, it's intuitive in a very real way. Honestly, even if you hate the music of these artists, once you've seen Yacht Rock from beginning to end you'll have a hard time hating those tracks ever again.

Watching Yacht Rock was one of the things that sealed me and Colette’s friendship. And I'll just say: the first time we watched it all the way through together, was not the last. Colette showed me the true power of smooth music, and the world will never been the same again.

February 2, 2018

Colette's Birthday: Recent Movies

We've been catching up on some modern movies and shows this month at the Tape Freaks household, here are my opinions on some of those:

Good Time: This was a great movie no doubt, but, I can't say I loved watching this film. (And if I hadn't watched all the way to the end, I might not have liked it at all.) Maybe it was the wrong night for me to watch it but, it was too real for me and I had a hard time going along for the ride. My mind kept wandering to people and situations from my youth, wondering what happened to people I knew from those days, remembering what happened to those people, wondering if people who watched this flick would take away a new perspective about people like that (as it seemed was the intention) or if they would shrug it off like so many episodes of Cops. I'd be interested to hear from someone who's perspective was shifted as a result of watching this movie, particularly someone who didn't grow up submerged in those kinds of realities, because they're over the top in just the right ways that make it only a step away from things that happened to people I knew. Over all, this is a very well executed film; great performances by everyone on screen, interesting juxtapositions of perspective, and cinematography that actively adds to the narrative, just too triggering for me to enjoy personally.

Super Dark Times: Somehow this hyper realistic and dark coming-of-age movie was exactly my speed. At the start, the portrayals of teens/preteens being obnoxious dipshits was so spot on that I almost couldn't stand it, but that setup pays off pretty quickly, and the twist and turns the movie takes were organic and completely unexpected. It was the dark coming-of-age film I never knew I wanted, but I would like more now please.

Ingrid Goes West: Halfway through this movie I had an anxiety attack expressly caused by watching this film. Oddly, I still liked it a ton! This is a beyond fantastic exploration of imposter syndrome, mental illness and enabling, filled with excellent performances by Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, O'Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, and Billy Magnussen. It was also pretty great to see two sons of stars illustrating they were more than their parent's children. Especially Jackson, he was able to match Plaza's genuine and grounded delivery of humor every step of the way. I will be watching this movie again... despite it having caused me to question every friendship I've ever had all at once...

Brigsby Bear: This movie made me want to run out and make a movie with my friends. I mean, I've done exactly that before, but this was especially inspiring both in that this is a great film, and watching the characters make their own film brought me life. This was also another in a trend I've been noticing of films and shows that fit my humor, get dark, and are great over all, but never get mean. It's very fucking refreshing.

The Villainess: Tim kept explaining this as South Korean John Wick, and it really was in all the best ways. If you've not been watching a bunch of modern South Korean genre movies (which you should fix by watching The Wailing, Train to Busan, The Host, and Okja), we've noticed this strange theme to them: each film winds through drastically different tones, and does so with mind-boggling ease. And it's not genre mashing like drama/action/horror or horror/comedy/coming of age, it's more like high-body-count zombie/heart-warming coming of age/serious family drama/societal-commentary film. (I was describing Train to Busan there if you were wondering.) The Villainess was a mix of spy/family drama/romantic comedy/bloody action/revenge flick; think Drive with heavy overtones of John Wick, Atomic Blonde, and The Raid 2. If you liked any of those, you will very likely enjoy this one as much as we did!

Mom and Dad: This one could have been better. It's not that it's wasn't entertaining, or that the performances were flat (Nicolas Cage is wonderfully batshit, but Selma Blair steals the damn show), it's just that it falls short in some areas where the Crank movies (yes, we love the Crank movies) shine. It's stylized, but in a way that captures too well the drabness of living in suburbia, and it occasionally meanders in the plot and character development in ways that are distracting at best and needless at worst. But, there are a few delightful surprises throughout and it's far from terrible, just set your bar accordingly.

January 30, 2018

February's Mystery Movie: First Clue

Clue #1: The first clue to this month's movie is that it's one of Colette's favorite action-exploitation films.

Tape Freaks Presents: February's Mystery Movie at the Trylon Cinema, Wednesday, February 7th @ 7:00pm, only $5!