Top Five Ways to Improve the Oscars’ Bechdel Test Score

Film critics are currently in agreement about two things: 2013 was an excellent year for American film, but it was a lousy year for everyone who pees sitting down. Behind the camera, in front of the camera, somewhere in the near vicinity of the camera. It didn’t really matter. Unless your name is Megan Ellison or you were responsible for “Let it Go,” then this probably wasn’t your year. Look no further than the nominees for Best Actress: Cate Blanchet is a lock for Blue Jasmine—an execrable film that includes jokes that might have been funny during the Carter administration—and Meryl Streep is nominated for a film that manages to make a dramatic legend sound like a soap actress impersonating Paula Deen. The Best Supporting Actress category is far stronger (Lupita and June!), but it’s troubling that 2013 Hollywood apparently only writes strong roles for women who agree to take up less screen time.

But this doesn’t mean women weren’t working in any films. It just means they weren’t in the types of films or the types of roles that Hollywood deems worthy of red carpets and tiny gold men. So here are the five ways I’d change the current list of nominees to increase the Oscar’s popularity among single, over-educated Jezebel readers (i.e., me): Continue reading “Top Five Ways to Improve the Oscars’ Bechdel Test Score”

Ladies You May Have Missed in 2013

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classic
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classic

A surprisingly good year for female directors, 2013 featured well-received work on film and television by Jane Campion, Lake Bell, Jenji Cohan, and Maggie Carey. But if you don’t live in New York or Los Angeles, your independent theatre was probably busy showing Blue Jasmine for three months, so you may have missed the excellent crop of smaller films  women released this year. This is why Netflix exists.

1. Wadjda by Haifaa Al-Mansour

Although marketed as a piece of feel-good agitprop, Wadjda—the first film by a female Saudi director—is not a PSA. It’s a deceptively simple and rather lyrical take on one of film’s favorite symbols of hope: the bicycle.

2. Fill the Void by Rama Burshtein

Despite what the horrible English title would lead you to believe, this debut film from the ultra-Orthodox Israeli director Rama Burshtein isn’t about rock climbing or space exploration. It’s an intimate portrayal of women in ultra-Orthodox society that doesn’t attack or defend the community but simply tells a surprisingly erotic and complex story of female desire. Also, bonus points for having one of the best film posters of the year.

3. Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley

Exploring the history of her own parentage, Sarah Polley plays with the documentary form—mixing found footage with reenactments—as she questions our preconceived notions of narrative and memory. And it’s one of the sweeter depictions of a father-daughter relationship on film—genetics be damned.

4. The Selfish Giant by Clio Barnard

In the follow-up to her innovative documentary The Arbor, Clio Barnard once again reveals the harsher side of contemporary English life that somehow never makes it onto the pages of The Daily Mail. Although the film is based on an Oscar Wilde short story, don’t expect any Lady Bracknells to show up. This is tough viewing.

5. Yellow Fever by Ng’endo Mukki

The winner of the Chicago International Film Festival award for Best Animated Short Film, this debut by Kenyan director Ng’endo Mukki combines mutiple styles of animation to explore the politics of race and beauty. Good luck finding it online, but hopefully it will be streaming soon.

In Space, No One Can See Your Vagina

Image Credit: AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures
Image Credit: AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures

Here’s one thing I’ve never said upon exiting an action film: “Those accusations of sexism were totally unfounded.” Because I always think they’re founded. One of the hazards of listening to about ten pop culture podcasts is that when a new movie really hits, you better believe all ten podcasts are going to discuss it in NPR levels of detail. By the time I see most films, I’ve already heard arguments about sexism, racism, appropriation, and homophobia, and I’m basically writing my thesis as my popcorn hits the bag. So I was entirely prepared to be incensed by Alfonso Curón’s Gravity after hearing Josh Larsen of Filmspotting describe George Clooney’s character as a mansplaining Buzz Lightyear with Jiminy Cricket pretensions. But upon exiting this particular action film, all I could think was, “Those accusations of sexism were totally unfounded.”

Larsen leveled the charge of mild sexism against Gravity because of the supposedly patronizing nature of Clooney’s Matt Kowalski—a space hero always eager to rescue space newbie, Ryan Stone—played by Sandra Bullock (a.k.a., the queen of 2013). Normally, I’d be totally on board with this accusation, but Kowalski’s defining characteristic is his seniority. Not only is the man seriously greying, but the film reminds us at least four times that he’s breaking the record for time spent in space. He’s literally been doing this job longer than any other living being in the known universe—EVER. Stone, on the other hand, is on her maiden voyage. And she isn’t even a real astronaut. She’s a scientist who happened to end up in space after a series of unfortunate events. Despite the fact that she’s clearly coded as competent and highly intelligent, she also frequently comments on how much she’d really rather not be in space right now. And, honestly, who can blame her? So having the veteran Kowalski teach the rookie Stone how she can ultimately save herself doesn’t seem so much sexist as the basis of every cop movie ever made—if you change one of those pronouns, of course. Continue reading “In Space, No One Can See Your Vagina”

Millennial Dating Tip #1: Don’t Date Yourself

Image Credit: Magnolia Pictures
Image Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Millennial courtship is markedly different from that social ritual previous generations called dating—and not just because of the advent of smartphones and Snapchat. We’re basically the first generation in which men and women weren’t raised to believe that the opposite sex was some separate species only to be approached during peak mating season. Regardless of your chromosomes, if you grew up in a middle-class home in the 90s, then you probably have quite a bit in common with most other middle-class 90s kids—male or female. We were all forced to play soccer. We all thought oversized pants were fierce. And we’ve all seen at least ten episodes of Saved by the Bell (and at least two episodes of Saved by the Bell: The College Years). So the old When Harry Met Sally cliché about the impossibility of male-female friendships is no longer self-evident—except when it is.

Because all of this commonality and friendship often leads to a whole lot of confusion that really wasn’t an issue when heterosexual men and women had nothing in common except intercourse. You now have all kinds of blurry relationships. You have a work boyfriend, who you flirt with from 9-6 but rarely see outside the office. You have a straight male friend who shares your love of Girls. And you probably have a significant other with whom you watch Mad Men and mock congressional Republicans. So what differentiates these relationships? Not much. Except sex, of course. But the blurred boundaries invite a whole lot of questions about why it is you’re screwing one of these guys and not the other two. Continue reading “Millennial Dating Tip #1: Don’t Date Yourself”

Your Elbows Are Slutty

Image via Salon

Single? You may have never guessed that the answer to finding a husband is simple: just cover those skanky knees of yours because if there’s one thing men hate, it’s exposed joints. Or so says Lauren Shields, erstwhile blogger and soon-to-be-author of The Modesty Experiment—the latest in the subgenre of experimental memoir (i.e., the bastard child of Ryan Seacrest and Elizabeth Wurtzel). The Modesty Experiment is a rather bland title, so I’m hoping it includes a peppier subtitle like, “Sluts die alone!” or “Love your body by pretending it doesn’t exist!” Both would be fitting because Shields appears to believe that women’s body issues can all be solved if women just pretend they don’t have bodies. Who knew it was that simple! I guess we can all get rid of our therapists now and spend all that saved money on cardigans! In order to achieve this liberation, women simply need to follow an extremely labor intensive and time consuming dress code.

Oh wait, we’re already doing that…

Continue reading “Your Elbows Are Slutty”