As we see in movies like “Get Out,” “28 Days Later,” and “Dawn of the Dead,” horror can be more than scares and carnage. It can reflect and challenge our assumptions. Two new articles provide some fascinating commentary on these themes.
Mary Beth McAndrews writes on Reel Honey about “reclaiming female exploitation” in horror. “Recently, female directors have been working to reclaim this exploitation by appropriating these tropes to create empowering horror narratives. These films are still violent, but they do not solely depend on the suffering and abjection of their female characters….These directors and writers are just a few of the women in horror working to change the trajectory of the horror narrative and how we view the female body on-screen. Yes, horror is a genre built on violence and gore. But these women are re-evaluating the use of that exploitative violence into something thoughtful, empowering, and equally gory. The monsters they construct are not so fantastical and the scenarios they portray are much more real, giving their violence more meaning and purpose. It is not just about reveling in women’s bodies in pain; it is about understanding their pain.”
And on Medium, Marcus Benjamin writes about a new documentary: “Horror Noire: A History Of Black Horror’ Makes The Case For Empathy In A Scary World.” Traditionally, he says, “Outside of dying, tending to the the main character’s need was our number one function. This was all done while doing a disservice to our own lives, which we may or may not have had on screen because no one cared enough to give them one. Or in the case of Rachel True’s character from The Craft, someone decided to cut out portions of the film altogether that explored her family life and other struggles….When you’re not surrounded by people of races other than your own, you don’t develop the empathy gene for them. How can you begin to comprehend how a black person feels about blackface if you don’t have any black people in your circle to tell you? Or if you’ve didn’t grow up with any black friends? Or if you grew up in a racist city or town? Despite all your efforts to learn, you’ll likely have a cultural blindspot or two. Similarly, when the history of cinema is filled with blackface or monsters and gigantic apes as stand-ins for black people, that means entire generations grew up believing black people were always lesser.”
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Pay attention to the whole frame
One of freelance critic Candice Frederick’s favorite scenes in the heist thriller Widows features a long, unbroken shot where Colin Farrell’s politician character and his campaign manager, played by Molly Kunz, are in a heated discussion in a car. The viewer doesn’t see their faces but instead watches as the camera captures the changing landscape around the car. “We don’t see them because the director wants us to look around,” Frederick says. “These moments when you’re not focused on the characters’ faces and you think it’s downtime — in that scene, there’s so much being said. It really implores you to watch the screen, because, in addition to that, there’s a whole bunch of things happening on the street that we’re supposed to be looking at.” Don’t miss an opportunity to take in some plot development just because the camera isn’t focused on the stars.
And this one is good advice for looking at anything:
Take a curious approach to all aspects of the story, from characters to setting. Frederick likes to begin with believability, even in fantastical settings. “Thinking from your own experience, would someone react like that? Is that real?” she says. “Ask questions about what you’re being presented, and ask whether you can see humans talking to other humans in that way.”
Consider alternative scenarios, and question whether the story could’ve ended a different way. This forces you to think critically and confront the things you thought were weak or unrealistic. “Say, why did such-and-such happen? Or why did this happen instead of that?” Frederick says. “Ask questions. Talk about it afterward.” You don’t necessarily need to arrive at the answers — just asking is enough to get you into a more critical frame of mind. And the more you do it, the easier it will be at the next movie you see, and the next one after that.
Jeremy Fassler Ranks the Oscar-Winning Animated Shorts
Posted on February 25, 2019 at 3:24 pm
It was a delight to read Jeremy Fassler’s ranking of all of the Oscar-winning animated shorts for New York Magazine’s Vulture. From Disney’s “Three Little Pigs” (which introduced the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”) at #12 to the Hubleys’ “Moonbird” (#30), Herb Alpert songs (#59), and “The Hole” (#7) (John Hubley also worked on #4, “Gerald McBoing-Boing”) and Nick Parks’ “A Close Shave” (#43) and “The Wrong Trousers” (#1), from powerhouses like Tom and Jerry and Disney to one-offs like the Polish director who ended up in jail with his Oscar after he misplaced his ticket and got into an altercation with the security guard who would not let him back into the theater, it is an entertaining and insightful look at some of the greatest animated talents of all time.