The Meg vs. Jaws: The Revenge

Posted on August 12, 2018 at 9:05 pm

Slate’s has a great essay by Keith Phipps comparing “The Meg” to the nutty “Jaws: The Revenge,” asking “Which is the crazier shark movie?” It is wonderfully passionate, thoughtful, and thorough and tons of fun to read.

Everything about Jaws: The Revenge, from its borderline incoherent story to its chaotic action to its iffy effects to co-star Mario Van Peebles’ attempt at a Bahamian accent reveal it as a patchwork movie with little holding it together.

And it gives me a chance to share my all-time favorite stand-up routine ever, from the late, much-missed Richard Jeni.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Kristen Lopez on The Rock and The Ghost and Disabled Characters in Movies

Posted on July 14, 2018 at 5:17 pm

Copyright Universal 2018

My friend Kristen Lopez is also one of my favorite critics, knowledgeable, forthright, passionate, and always willing to engage on issues of representation. Recently, she stared down a bunch of rabid fanboys who were upset (“Hey, it’s a MOVIE!”) on Twitter because she called out “Ant-Man and the Wasp” for the tired trope of the disabled bad guy, driven to do bad things because of the disability.

Ant-Man and the Wasp’s treatment of disability will go under the radar. But in a landscape where disability remains marginalized, particularly for women of color (and people of color in general), a character like Ava could have helped opened the door. Chronic pain remains a hot-button issue in the disabled community, and having Ava live with it could have presented something relatable. Instead, Ava is stripped of her problem in order to make her rational, quantifiable, and controllable.

I was interested to see how she would react to Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of a disabled character in “Skyscraper.” While I prefer to see disabled characters played by disabled actors, I also recognize the idea that any actor should be able to play any part. Until ordinary characters — teachers, accountants, doctors, scientists, parents, children — are shown with disabilities that are not central to their identity and are played by actors with disabilities, I think we should be careful about putting able-bodied people in those roles. And no body is more able than The Rock.

Lopez called Johnson’s portrayal “surprisingly nuanced” and “far better” than what we usually see.

First, she says, “the adversity is the building itself, not Will’s disability….By not making a big deal of his disability, Will is a character who represents a marked improvement in representation. People with disabilities don’t want their disability to define them, and Will’s doesn’t define his character. It adds to it…. His character doesn’t walk away a changed man appreciating being disabled. He gets his family back and seemingly ends the film the same way he started. It’s just a facet of his personality he deals with in order to overcome this great challenge.”

But, she has some concerns as well. “The character is also written to fall into the “able-bodied buffer” category, a term I use to describe any character shown as previously able-bodied before a traumatic event. This ‘buffer’ is created as a means of helping the able-bodied audience bond with the newly disabled character, under the belief that disabled people are so mysterious that there’s no point of entry for the audience short of reminding them the character was one ‘like you.'”

I wasn’t the only one who appreciated this review.

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Critics Disabilities and Different Abilities Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Rotten Tomatoes Goes Way Deep Into the MCU: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Posted on July 11, 2018 at 7:27 pm

Copyright Marvel 2018
I love Erik Amaya‘s deep take on what we might be learning about the future of the Avengers post-Infinity War from “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” His rich and complex understanding of the MCU has some insights into the details we might have overlooked in the latest chapter, reminding us that it is not a stand-alone, despite its quirky humor and storyline with only the slightest connection to the overarching Infinity Stone saga…until the two scenes in the credits.

Some of my favorite ideas from his piece (SPOILER ALERT):

The quantum experience may affect Scott’s powers, possibly even time travel. Cassie and Luis may play important roles. So may Dr. Strange.

I know, this sounds like your daily horoscope. But read the piece — it’s grounded in a very thorough understanding of Marvel comics, characters, and the MCU.

And for more:

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Spoiler Alert Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Clever Girl — Said by Sean Connery (Twice) and a LOT of Other People Too

Posted on July 10, 2018 at 2:34 pm

How many times have women characters in movies been called “clever girls?” Well, here’s a remarkable compilation.

It’s an interesting compliment, because it’s praising and kind of diminishing at the same time, though in some of these cases there seem to be meta quote marks around it. I wonder why it is so prevalent, though.

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Film History Supercuts and Mashups Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Roxana Hadadi on the New Western

Posted on July 8, 2018 at 3:14 pm

One of the best essays about film I’ve read this year is Roxana Hadadi’s “Amid the Latest Western Genre Resurgence, ‘Lean on Pete’ and ‘The Rider’ Challenge Cowboy Masculinity in the American West” in Pajiba. She discusses several recent movies, including “Logan,” HBO’s “Westworld,” and “Hell or High Water,” but focuses on “Lean on Pete” and “The Rider.” The Western has always been the quintessential representation of the American spirit of independence, isolation, adventure, arrogance, as well as a way to explore our nation’s deepest conflicts and history of brutality and racism. And, as with most movie stories over the past century, the stories have almost always been about men and from their point of view. Hadadi writes:

The American experience has long been linked to the masculinity of the solitary cowboy, pushing the limits of the frontier. But what happens when there is nowhere left to go?

…Which brings us to Lean on Pete and The Rider, two films that also fit into the Western genre but are less about what the New West represents and more about what it actually is….These are stories about boys on the cusp of being men, each of whom is attempting to navigate selfhood in situations of poverty and desolation, in places where the cowboy code was once enough but isn’t anymore. Where so many Westerns focus on exploring (and romanticizing) the destructive ways that masculinity manifests, Lean on Pete and The Rider are concerned with what happens when those stereotypical markers—violence, sex, and lawlessness—are not only stripped away but are never the right choice at all. If you reject what it is to be a cowboy but you exist in the shadow of that figure, who are you?

You won’t read a better, wiser, or more goregously written essay on film this year.

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Critics Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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