1. Understanding “Gone Girl” Through Another Film. Virtually every film thinkpiece over the past several days has been tied to whether or not David Fincher’s new film “Gone Girl” is a misogynistic film or not. Scott Tobias of The Dissolve found a fresh way of answering the question by looking at another thriller that plays consciously with the misogyny, Takashi Miike’s “Audition.”
Both “Gone Girl” and “Audition” are about gender roles, specifically the expectation that women allow men to dictate the terms of a relationship. In fact, the clever twist of Miike’s film is that Asami is auditioning for a gender role, and Shigeharu has typecast her as an old-fashioned, subservient replacement for his late wife—albeit much younger. We can watch in horror as Asami responds to his deception in chilling, freaky, stomach-turning ways, but it’s Shigeharu’s sins—and the sins of men more generally—that are coming back to haunt him. Viewed as metaphor, her actions don’t seem so disproportionate. Read more.
2. In Search of a Challenging Cinema. The new film “Pride” might be a “crowd-pleaser that actually pleases,” but Richard Brody of The New Yorker found himself disappointed that the film targeted his values without trying to do anything more challenging. As a counterpoint, Brody drew attention to another film about a mining strike that targeted values while trying to be cinematically expressive and morally complex, John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley.”
Ford’s film is rich in invention, which is inseparable from provocation. It, too, is a historical film—it’s set in an unspecified time in the late nineteenth century—but it’s framed as a work of memory, as a man recalls what he saw and experienced as a boy at the time of the strike. The shift in perspective sets up a painful paradox—the story becomes an elegy for the man’s late father (played by Donald Crisp), whose enduring wisdom and rightness of judgment the adult now recollects. But the story that the narrator tells reveals that his father was alone among the miners in opposing the strike, and that he paid a heavy price for his opposition. Read more.
3. The Dark, Weird Side of “Mulaney.” John Mulaney is a very funny man, but his new sitcom “Mulaney” is getting mixed to negative reviews for being formulaic. But The Atlantic’s David Sims believes that critics are missing the show’s dark edge, which is being smuggled in by the light, “Seinfeld”-like style and tone.
That opening scene is about our hero, John Mulaney, trying to scam some free Xanax from his doctor. One member of the six-person ensemble, Andre (Zack Pearlman) is a drug dealer who the other characters openly despise. Mulaney’s roommates are Jane (Nasim Pedrad), who spends the pilot hacking into an ex-boyfriend’s e-mail account, and Motif (Seaton Smith), a fellow stand-up who achieves fleeting fame for an offensive joke (about calling women “Problem Bitches”) that succeeds despite having no punchline. There’s something striking about how the harshness of the show’s jokes clash with its hyper-formulaic presentation. “Mulaney” is directed by Andy Ackerman, a sitcom icon who worked on “Seinfeld” among many other shows, and it looks like it’s been lifted straight out of 1992. That’s probably helping to obscure some of this show’s real promise, but it’s also what makes it interesting—if these characters were being this mean in a realistic setting, “Mulaney” might be unwatchable. In the familiar confines of the network sitcom, the zingers land softly and cleanly. Read more.
4. The Gayest Horror Movie Ever Made. It’s October, which means it’s time for horror movies. For the occasion, Tyler Coates of The Decider chose to look at “A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” which has long been noted for having heavy gay subtext that made it a fascinatingly odd (if not particularly good) addition to the “Elm Street” franchise. Bonus: while the screenwriter and now openly gay actor intended this, the whole thing went over director Jack Sholder’s head, in spite of moments like this:
Jesse runs from his girlfriend and his hesitation toward having sex with her, and where does he end up? In the bedroom of his best friend, Ron, to whom Jesse screams, “Something is trying to get inside my body!” Ron naturally replies, “Yeah, and she’s female and she’s waiting for you in the cabana and you want to sleep with me.” (Of course he does, Ron!) And while Jesse’s struggle with his sexuality is certainly the subtext of the film, there’s also the text of the film, which is weapons-grade gay. Read more.
5. How TV Gets Spanish and Spanglish Wrong. Hollywood is not good at utilizing Spanish or Spanglish in film and television, usually either casting people who can’t speak the language convincingly as a native speaker (Giancarlo Esposito on “Breaking Bad”) or otherwise bungling when one language or another is used. NPR’s Jasmine Garsd explains, referring to an episode of “Law & Order: SVU”:
One of the “SVU” storylines focused on a young Mexican prostitute who has been trafficked to the U.S. a year or two ago. Somehow, she speaks fantastic English, just with an accent, to the NYPD detective during a long interrogation. After that, she spontaneously starts talking in very dramatic Spanish to a non-Latina detective she just met. As someone who regularly speaks English, Spanish and Spanglish (that mix of English and Spanish), this made no sense. For American Latinos, there are certain unspoken rules about what language you speak, and to whom. I know if I ever speak to my parents (native Argentines) in Spanglish, I will get immediately corrected with the word I’m looking for — but can’t remember — in Spanish. And if I ever speak to my mom in English — well, I don’t do that (she pretends she can’t hear me over the phone.) Read more.
6. 10 Filmmaking Lessons from Paul Thomas Anderson. “Inherent Vice” has finally debuted, and while it’s definitely not for everyone, it further confirms Paul Thomas Anderson as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. Jason Bailey of Flavorwire attended the “On Cinema” conversation between Anderson and Kent Jones, and he came away with ten lessons for filmmakers from the director.
Don’t let your music do your work. The music cues in Anderson’s films are always spot-on (and Vice is no exception), but a viewing of the Grimes music video “Oblivion” (which Anderson said “made me hyper, made me bounce around the room”) prompted a discussion of the how carefully those preexisting songs must be curated. It should never feel like “you’re just watching the best of someone’s record collection. You know, that can be a bit nauseating: Here’s my mix tape, and here’s my movie afterwards.” Read more.