Film

Trashpect Ratio 23: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

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Hey everyone, Jackson here! It’s been an incredibly difficult month for me, with emergencies of both health and housing springing up, so it’s taken me a little longer than usual to edit this episode. But it’s here, and it’s worth the wait! We talk Zootopia’s politics, the comedic genius of Tyler Perry and get into our movie club: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.

Movies Discussed

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Zootopia
Belladona of Sadness
Steve Jobs
The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

This Month’s Movie Club

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Next Month’s Movie Club

Inaugruation of the Pleasure Dome
Lucifer Rising

April O'Neil: A Day in the Life

Megan Fox's Mikaela does not fare well in the Transformers movies. She exists to be an object, obviously, but that objectification is worth examining further. In the first movie, she is an object of desire and status, Sam's (Shia LaBeouf) attainment of her an affirmation of his heroic status. In the second movie she is an object of resentment as Sam has to contend with the fact that Mikaela is a human being with needs of her own. Finally, in the third movie she is an object of hatred, no longer on screen yet very much present within every action that Sam takes. She was a bitch, obviously, and Sam didn't need her. He's way happier with this nicer, better, hotter new girl. 

These movies are awful, and their treatment of Fox (both within the movies themselves and in the winder culture) is deplorable, yet they always left me wondering. Michael Bay's Transformers movies are such perfect illustrations of the toxicity and violence of masculinity that I've always wondered if, if made with an ounce of self-awareness, it could become something worthwhile.

That movie totally exists in the 2014 film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Despite his role as just one of several producers, Bay is inexorably linked to the new TMNT. He's arguably the biggest name attached to the film (the series is referred to as the Michael Bay TMNT films), and it owes a great debt to Transformers visually, tonally and conceptually. It's a dark and "realistic" live action movie based on a popular 80s kids franchise, with a greasy, lens-flare laden cinematography, a tonne of bro-out humour and starring none other than Megan Fox.

Yet TMNT diverges from the Transformers formula in its very first scene, as Fox no longer stars as object, but as our protagonist, April O'Neil. Although the film's gender politics are not that much better on the surface - the camera still leers, a gross older man and a gross teenage turtle both try to fuck her for the entire movie - April's role as protagonist means we see this world through her eyes. Through this framing, intentionally or not, the movie becomes an illustration of just what it is like to be a woman in a Michael Bay movie.

In the opening act, Will Arnett (his character has a name but I guarantee you that nobody on earth knows what it is) says flat out to April that she should be happy being the "froth." He tells her that she has been hired to look pretty and deliver puff pieces for the evening news, that this is why she is valuable and that should be enough for her. Arnett functions as an audience surrogate here and throughout the film, transparently helping April out of a desire to attain her; even his repeated acts of kindness and assistance are acknowledged as nothing more than ploys to get into April's pants. He wears a fedora. It's hilarious.

April never accepts Arnett's logic, or even entertains the possibility of a relationship with this dude clearly twenty years her senior. She remains resolute in her quest, which unfortunately for her is to try to convince the news to run a story about Vigilante Turtles, so she's fired pretty quickly.

It's important to say at this point that April is an idiot. She wrecks her own career, leads the bad guys to the Turtles, and is incapable of reacting with anything other than complete and total earnestness to everyone no matter how obviously evil they may be. April is not a Strong Female Character, she is still written as a woman within a Michael Bay movie. However, when she fucks up, the audience are brought along on that ride, and experience every beat with empathy for her position and her humanity, and her place at the centre of the movie is never questioned.

At the end of the film, April and the Turtles save the day, and Arnett is still hopelessly pining after her. He never gets April as a prize, or the reward of a catharsis for finally acknowledging her as a person. The epilogue centres entirely on April's newfound feeling of belonging, and the movie ends with her smiling between two idiots, finding comfort in her sense of accomplishment with what she's been able to achieve, yet still having to navigate their unwanted advances, Just another day in the life.

I don't think that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an amazing, progressive movie (in fact, I think all this praise just shows it meets a very low standard of basic decency), but it does deserve a lot more respect than it ended up getting. In a movie world in which noted Strong Woman Black Widow has done literally nothing but show up to propel dudes forward for over half a decade, a blockbuster marketed at young boys which invites them to acknowledge the humanity of women that other films so violently deny is something that has to be worth something. 

Trashpect Ratio 22: Possession

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

May rolls around and so too does another fine episode of Trashpect Ratio! We mention superheroes for all of three seconds before moving into chat about Beyonce’sLemonade and Zulawski’s Possession. Click that play button or subscribe on the podcast app of your choice for monthly, interesting movie discussion between good friends!

Enjoy!

Movies Discussed

Civil War
The Jungle Book
Lemonade
World of Tomorrow
Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams
Possession

This Month’s Movie Club

Possession

Next Month’s Movie Club

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

Trashpect Ratio 21: Gone Girl

To listen to the episode, click here. To subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

In this month’s Trashpect Ratio we are joined by a very special guest,Shannon Strucci, to talk about Gone Girl! It’s a chat that’s been a long time coming, and it’s well worth the wait, some give us a download and take a listen to the podcast! It’s good!

Big thanks to Shannon for showing up on our lil show, she’s a certified Cool Person that you should follow, and can be found on twitter, tumblr and youtube!

Movies Discussed

World of Tomorrow
Rugrats in Paris
Batman v Superman
Bound
Gone Girl
Y Tu Mama Tambien
The Lobster

This Month’s Movie

Gone Girl

Next Month’s Movie

Possession

I Hate Sword Art Online

For reasons unknown to science, I watched all fifty episodes of Sword Art Online. The show had been sold to me as, among other things, “The Smartest Anime I’ve Seen In Years,” and “not entirely a waste of time, I guess.”

It is, instead, the worst thing I’ve seen with my eyes.

Allow me, for a few hundred words, to get Mad Online about why.

This is Kirito. He likes video games, and is a bit of a loner, on account of being just too good for everyone else. He is the worst parts of every bad shonen protagonist combined, with not a shred of personality to compensate. When he is on screen, he destroys every possible ember of dramatic tension and renders the entire premise inert, which is a problem seeing as he is the main character.

What is that premise? Well, it’s nothing original, there’s at least two other shows with pretty much the same one: you die in the game, you die for real. Sword Art Online is the story of the titular MMO, which a bunch of players log into and discover that their souls are now trapped inside the virtual world until the dungeon is cleared! Dun dun dun!!!

It’s fine. There’s even a little bit of propulsion and tension after the first episode when Kirito runs off to begin his quest, a tiny glimmer of hope that this just might be something worth watching. Immediately, everything falls apart.

The first season functions as a series of vignettes, twelve episodes taking us on a two-year journey of the life of the players inside SAO. It’s a strange approach, in that any momentum built up in a single episode dissipates on contact with air, but not inherently flawed. The idea of compressing time in order to show the evolution of a society is not one without merit, what is without merit is what they do with that.

Sword Art Online may have some ideas about virtual experiences as legitimate expressions of self, but all fall by the wayside of the show’s only true goal: making you think that Kirito is the best. human. ever.

This scenario happens at least four times:

  1. Kirito enters a new town.
  2. Kirito saves a woman from another man with nefarious aims
  3. Said woman falls in love with Kirito
  4. Kirito leaves and breaks their heart

Four times!

Leaving beside the show’s gender politics for a second (oh, we’ll get to them, believe me), it’s just tragically bad writing. There’s no attempt to invest in Kirito as a character, because he achieves everything immediately, everybody loves him the second they meet him, and he will overcome every obstacle through simply being the best. It’s more sad than it is frustrating, because the show is so concerned with selling its power fantasy that it fails to connect emotionally on any level.

Storytelling is an intimate act, we fall in love with stories, we laugh and cry and form bonds with people who never existed. And intimacy requires vulnerability. Sword Art Online is the tragedy of masculinity writ large, so terrified of ever appearing weak that it prevents anyone from ever forming a true connection.

But the show’s terror runs so deep that you cannot even feel sorry for it, as that terror expresses itself hatefully towards everyone who isn’t Kirito. Every other woman is instantly in love with Kirito, due to his skill and strength, and every other man is a vulgar sexual harasser. The worldview is made clear, to Sword Art Online you are either prize or his competition, and the distinction is drawn across gendered lines.

Sword Art Online is nothing unique, merely another in a long line of fantasies, serving up a worldview that is as toxic as it is boring. Not to say there is nothing worthwhile here, one arc telling the story of Asuna and Yuuki is touching and kind, because without the need for its hero to appear strong, the show doesn’t need to be afraid anymore.

Those moments of potential only serve to highlight the failures surrounding them. As with many stories of this type, it isn’t like they’re incapable of caring, it’s merely that they don’t want to.

Trashpect Ratio 20: Ghost in the Shell

To listen to the episode, click hereTo subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

This is the twentieth month of Trashpect Ratio! Hooray! And, as always, we bring another episode of great movie discussion. We talk through the identity of the Mission Impossible series, the nuances of Zootopia and our movie club is the seminal 1995  cyberpunk anime, Ghost In The Shell.

Movies Discussed

Missions Impossible 1-5
Deadpool
Zootopia
The Witch
Collateral
Ghost In The Shell

This Month’s Movie

Ghost in the Shell

Next Month’s Movie

Gone Girl

A Requiem For Margo Dunne

There are approximately three great movies within Gone Girl.

1. The story of Amy Elliott, an exploitation hero who decides that the only response to bearing the weight of silent, systemic patriarchal violence is to become the imaginary villain that women are so often painted as. She invents domestic violence, makes false rape accusations, and convinces the world her husband is an abusive murderer. And we would cheer her on, as these men who think themselves innocent receive punishment for their complicity in horrors so vast and pervasive that they could never understand. 

2. The Story of Tanner Bolt, who is Tyler Perry starring in Scandal but without any moral centre. When he's onscreen, the film suddenly becomes aware that it is inherently ridiculous, and is able to derive a perverse sense of pleasure as it finally accepts all behaviour as performance and readies itself for some sort of Liar's War. 

3. The story of Margo Dunne.

Instead, Gone Girl is the story of Nick Dunne. He is our only point of view character, with the dual protagonist conceit being given up with the very first shot, with Amy centre frame as Nick monologues: "what's going on inside your head?" Nick is a character, and Amy is a mystery. Bitches, right? How do they work.

The movie builds for two and a half hours towards its central revelation: that marriage can be a breeding ground for resentment and pain. It treats this labored point with profundity, as if this bombshell isn't present in every single Mountain Goats song already.

Which is a shame, because if it wasn't so focused on subverting the perfect marriage (which seemed like hell from the start, is that the kind of marriage straight people idealise?) it would have realised that Margo Dunne's storyline contained all the themes it wanted to explore with so much more pathos and empathy.

She's just a lonely woman whose mother dies and whose idiot brother gets embroiled in a national fucking media phenomenon, a brother she has to stand by while he fucks his student in her own home while those very cameras wait outside. But despite her disgust, she stands by him, for what else can she do: he's the only family that she has.

Margo Dunne is the tragic straightman in this whole affair, trapped in between her cartoonishly boring brother and his cartoonishly 'crazy' wife, forced to watch as her world falls apart and her brother walks away from her and back into the arms of his murderwife. While Gone Girl may not work as a metaphor for marriage, it sure works for a metaphor of watching someone close to you suffer through a bad one.

So godspeed to Margo Dunne, may she one day be free of her Brother's bullshit, may she one day find a better movie in which to have her story told.

Trashpect Ratio 19: Tropical Malady

To listen to the episode, click hereTo subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

On the ides of February, the 19th episode of Trashpect Ratio does come crawling through the cracks and onto the shores of the internet. There’s a talk about Grease and its possible transgressive nature, there’s a follow up chat on the career of Quentin Tarantino, and a short walk through the tastes of the hosts in Romantic Movies. All this as well as an interesting movie club movie, Tropical Malady! This is a quality episode, so come on down to ratio roadshow and stick it on your listening device of choice!

Movies Discussed

Grease
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Quentin Tarantino
Creed
Tropical Malady
Upstream Colour
Primer
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time
Annie Hall
Weekend
The Before Trilogy
In The Mood For Love
The Fountain
Starship Troopers
Her
Stories We Tell
Broadcast News

This Month’s Movie

Tropical Malady

Next Month’s Movie

Ghost in the Shell

Trashpect Ratio 18: Trouble Every Day

To listen to the episode, click hereTo subscribe, click here to find the site feed on iTunes, or search "head falls off" into any good podcast directory.

2016 has begun, and our brave heroes return from cinema trips all, having watched those Starly Wars, and a film in which Vincent Gallo learns of his stance on betrayal.

Movies Discussed

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
45 Years
The Hateful Eight
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Trouble Every Day

This Month’s Movie

Trouble Every Day

Next Month’s Movie

Tropical Malady

Musings on The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight is a film out of time, somehow delivered to us from a world in which a young Quentin Tarantino, fresh off of Reservoir Dogs, has been given a budget and studio backing to to to make his second movie. A profound regression, it positions itself as a response to the criticisms that Quentin Tarantino has been making the same movie since Kill Bill and needs to get back to what he was good at. It plays like a movie that someone would think Tarantino would make. It plays like Quentin Tarantino's Mallrats.

This isn't to say that I think The Hateful Eight is a bad movie, in fact far from it, everything I dislike about it feels both intentional and intentionally abrasive. It's a middle finger of a movie, a three hour joke where the punchline's on you for ever giving a shit in the first place. It's Reservoir Dogs' nihlism writ large, hours of tension building up to a climax where nobody wins and everyone's just as awful as each other, tipping its hand with a hilarious final shot cribbed straight from every episode of The West Wing.

I left the cinema mostly curious as to what comes next. The Hateful Eight feels like a transitional movie for Tarantino, who's been making revenge fantasies in which audiences get to cheer as personifications of structural oppression are straight up murdered for the better part of a decade. There's an attempt made to comment on the invisible, persistent violence that has to be navigated simply because you dared to be black in America, but the movie drops all pretensions of earnestness shortly into the second act.

After this, I don't think Tarantino can go back to that well. I love all of his prior movies (with the exception of Inglourious Basterds), but as time moves on a white dude auteur crafting the fantasies of the marginalized becomes less and less relevant, no matter how good those movies may be. Kill Bill almost certainly wouldn't play as strong today, with the rise of the internet and the greater ease with which works from alternative perspectives can be found, and it's barely been a decade.

Which brings us back to The Hateful Eight, a tantrum in movie form, the story of old bitter men gunning each other down pointlessly, and fuck you for thinking there was going to be a point at all. Tarantino, shooting in 70mm Ultra Panavision, is fighting against his own irrelevance in every frame, and when his next movie comes around, we'll see if he wins.