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Daily Reads: 50 Feminist Films, How Bernardo Bertolucci Found Himself and More

Daily Reads: 50 Feminist Films, How Bernardo Bertolucci Found Himself and More

Criticwire’s Daily Reads brings today’s essential news and critical pieces to you.

1. How Bernardo Bertolucci Found Himself. 
One of the greatest filmmakers of the late 20th century, Bernardo Bertolucci has been absent from filmmaking for far too long (2003’s “The Dreamers” was his last) due to depression and poor health that confined him to a wheelchair. His film “Me and You,” which debuted at Cannes in 2012, has finally made its way to the United States. Bilge Ebiri of Vulture has the story on how Bertolucci got his groove back.

In many ways, “Me and You,” for all its modesty and
spareness, shows the director in a more playful and open mood than he
has been in many years. Could it be the fact that it’s also his first
Italian-language movie in three decades? “I was pleased to hear Italian
in my movie again,” he says. “But if you don’t know Italian, you can’t
feel and hear a Sicilian accent. In Italy, it’s so surprising and kind
of funny to see and hear this very sophisticated girl, Olivia, with this
strong Catanian accent.” He adds: “English dialogues are always just
what you need and nothing more — like something out of Hemingway. In
Italian and in French, dialogues are always theatrical, literary. You
can do more with it.” Read more.

2. Hedy Lamarr, Inventor. 
Plenty of people might know Hedy Lamarr as the star of films like “Ecstasy” and “Algiers,” but Lamarr wanted to be appreciated for something other than her looks. Working with avant-garde composer George Antheil, Lamarr came up with a piano-like roll system that could change radio frequencies used to control torpedoes to keep the Nazis from jamming them.

Lamarr and Antheil patented their frequency hopping device in 1942
and approached the US Navy with the idea. Navy bureaucrats fundamentally
misunderstood the idea, however, and it was not until the 1950s that
the idea was taken off the shelf. With the advent of miniature circuits
and eventually microchips, the technology proved enormously useful. Read more.

3. Some Like It Not. The AFI’s lists aren’t taken too seriously by most cinephiles, with reason, but their selection of Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot” is pretty unimpeachable, right? Well, not to everyone: David Jenkins of Little White Lies wrote about how the film’s cynicism rubs him the wrong way. Hey, look at it this way: He raises up Preston Sturges’s magnificent “Christmas in July” at its expense, so he’s not all bad!

Maybe it’s this — we laugh at “Some Like it Hot” because we know
that it’s funny, not because it actually is funny. All the humour sinews
are left to dangle on the outside of the script. People telling jokes is
not the same thing as people being funny. It’s all script and
characters, and no talking and people. It has a jarring remove from the
real world that I just can’t abide. It is A Movie!!, not a movie. Read more.

4. The Science of Sentimentality. “Sentimental” is used as a dirty word in some circles, but is that anything more than a way of “sneering at emotion that you disagree with?” Katy Waldman at Slate dives into the science of emotions and questions why “we assume the ‘truer’ choice is always the more ambiguous one.”

Pleasure and guilt flick through the words we use for movies like “The Fault in Our Stars”: “tearjerker,” “melodrama,” “sob story.”
We like how it feels to lose ourselves in feeling, even when the
feeling itself carries a negative valence. But we don’t trust it, this
positively tinged mood that blooms in the shadow of others’ suffering, a
hair’s breadth away from sadism or schadenfreude. It seems
narcissistic, exploitative. Read more.

5. 50 Feminist Films. 
Even with more attention drawn to the fact more than ever, there’s a distressingly low number of female-centric films made in Hollywood or accepted to film festivals’ main competition. Flavorwire, though, has an excellent collection of feminist films to point the way, from populist hits (“Clueless”) to recent indie classics (“Wendy and Lucy”), from the high art (“Daisies”) to glorious trash (“Female Trouble”). 

A thread of feminism weaves itself through the work of Hayao Miyazaki. Perhaps his most mature film, “Princess Mononoke”
features a memorable and tenacious heroine, San, who subverts feminine
stereotypes and is written without the fanciful quirks commonly found in
animation (hello, Disney). Wolf-goddess character Moro deserves
attention as an unlikely mother figure that is fierce and, well, totally
pissed off (you would be too if people were destroying your home), but
wise and nurturing. Read more.

6. The Many Faces of Barbara Stanwyck. Barbara Stanwyck is, by some accounts, the best classic Hollywood actress to never win an Academy Award (unapologetically hyperbolic statement: her work in “The Lady Eve” is one of the five or ten best performances in movie history), and she hasn’t become as iconic as Katharine Hepburn or Bette Davis. Time to change that: in this essay, Anne Helen Peterson of the Hairpin praises Stanwyck’s life and career, how she could shift from screwball to melodrama to noir and remain totally believable in every role.

She’s like the conservative Meryl Streep:
When I think of both women, I don’t think of their lives, I think of
their roles. I realize you could say the same for many
actresses, especially if you’re not a Ph.D. in celebrity gossip, but
with most stars, their personal lives and what you know of them shapes
how you think of their roles. When you say “Jennifer Aniston,” I don’t
think of “Horrible Bosses;” I think of Brad Pitt and never finding love with a subtle waft of Rachel from “Friends“…What I’m trying to suggest is that unlike
Flynn or Gable, unlike Cooper or Bogart, unlike Crawford or Davis,
Stanwyck didn’t just have a gloss of morality and propriety. She was
seemingly nice to everyone. Film crews adored her. Frank Capra claimed
that “in a Hollywood popularity contest she would win first prize hands
down.” Read more.

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