Victoria Jelinek


WALL-E
September 17, 2018, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Film reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wall-E-Movie-PosterHumanity has abandoned planet earth, leaving behind them a fleet of robots to clean up their mess. When the movie opens, however, the only one of these robots remaining is WALL-E who is fascinated by garbage, cleaning it up each day, as he’s programmed to, and taking various ‘treasures’ he finds back to his home. His enchantment switches to a new target when a super-robot EVE touches down, looking for signs of life on earth.

Released ten years ago, I watched this again recently with my young son after seeing a small robot that cleaned a pool at a hotel we stayed at – day in, day out, without stopping – that reminded me of WALL-E. It was in this re-watching, though, with our ever-growing global behavior of consumption and waste, that I truly appreciated the ambition, charm, and visual wit of Pixar’s film. The story can only be the result of inspiration and passion rather than marketing meetings and focus groups, ‘cause WALL-E brings a message about being nice to our planet and the evils of big corporations (ironic, yes, given Disney owns Pixar, but hey ho, this film was made). The setting, a future earth composed of great skyscrapers of trash reaching toward a permanently overcast sky, is prescient. As are the signs for a mega corporation, “Buy and Large,” dotting the nihilistic landscape. While our hero speaks maybe four words – and he has no mouth, no eyebrows, no thumbs – everything WALL-E feels is perfectly palpable and authentic. He is one of the most expressive characters developed in animation. It’s in the nervousness of his gesticulations, the tilt of one of his lamp-like eyes, and his emotive sounds (designed by Ben Burtt, the man who gave us R2-D2’s beeps and tremors) that he is empathetic and believable. Meanwhile, the humans have been reduced to fat toddlers living in Lazy-Boy-type electronic recliners in space, whose every need is met with a touch of the screen that is perpetually in front of them. Enter WALL-E, who reminds us all what is important in life.

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do, with or without children. WALL-E is, arguably, Pixar’s most brilliant film in a canon of excellent films produced by the studio. It’s a hopeful film that reminds us of what it is to feel joy.

 

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I Am Not An Easy Man (Je Ne Suis Pas Un Homme Facile) (2018)
July 15, 2018, 11:17 am
Filed under: Film reviews | Tags: , , , , , , ,

I Am Not An Easy Man movie poster USADamien (Vincent Elbaz) is a ‘player’ in modern Paris. He develops content for an apps company by day, and seduces women when not at his job. Alexandra (Marie-Sophie Ferdane) is Damien’s best friend’s assistant. Damien tries to pick her up at a book-signing event to no avail, then leaves and bumps his head on a pole he runs into while ogling women passing by on the other side of the road. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a world where women hold the societal position that men have held historically to present day. While there is much in this film directed and co-written by Eleonore Pourriat that is arguably cliché and flat-footedly drives home a point, it’s ultimately a diverting film that one considers after watching it.

A hackneyed element is the idea that men in the alterative world who are not married at a certain point are sad and likely to live with a cat. I also found it rather wearisome that men in their role of stereotypical women in the alternate world are effeminate in their mannerisms, actions, and behaviors, such as swinging one’s hips, flipping one’s wrists, using ‘up talk’, etc. Would this actually happen with testosterone flowing through their veins? Is this type of behavior truly just environmental influence rather than biology? Conversely, women in the alternate world strut and burp, have their babies holding on to a hanging exercise bar, then turn the care of the babe over to the male nurse or their husband – would this happen with all the hormones raging through our bodies that (generally) work to bond us to the process of pregnancy, birth, and infant

Fundamentally, however, I found the concept good and was rather unsettled by how the reversal of gender is depicted, which prompted me to consider my own attitudes to roles men and women have in modern life. For example, women don’t shave their legs or armpits in the alternate world, but men must shave all of their body hair or risk being seen as disgusting hippy apes by potential seducers; women bare their chests while running or walking around, whereas men attempt to accentuate any cleavage and play coy with their titties; professional women wear dark suits, and men wear something colorful that, ideally, displays their legs; men are dismissed when they proffer a serious opinion, while women are respected and listened to; and men are the objects of lust in films; when Damien is ‘picked up’ by a woman and they have sex – they struggle for dominance and when she’s finished, she rolls over and leaves.

Even as I didn’t find this to be a comedic film, which has, perhaps, a cultural element to it, I did find it droll (derived from the French “drôle” meaning humorous or peculiar). For example, classic literature and philosophy has been re considered, with books written by George Sand (a woman in fact) becoming Georgia Sand. Additionally, I closely considered both my uncomfortable response to what was being shown as gender behavior in the alternative society, as well as why (exactly) it might be that men have dominated the cultural, political, economic, and personal lives of everyone since the beginning of time…has it all been so arbitrary?



Polanski Exhibit in Paris

http://www.france24.com/en/20171030-france-roman-polanski-retrospective-sex-assault-allegations-paris-protest-cinema-weinstein

Chinatown_1It makes me frustrated and sad that feminist groups are protesting this retrospective of Roman Polanski’s work at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris. The exhibit is not about the man and allegations of sexual misconduct against him – it is about his filmmaking, and his films are masterpieces.

As an aside, for those interested in hearing details about his 1973 rape conviction in Los Angeles, the then-girl that Polanski raped supported a 2008 documentary that claimed there was judicial misconduct in the case, which may inform one’s opinion of the situation.

I am NOT defending assault or sexual harassment or sexual predators. I worked in Hollywood for ten years, and am not naive to the innuendos and injustices against women behind closed doors AND on the screen. It bothers me tremendously that I have to insert that disclaimer from the ‘get go’ in the hope of being listened to and not judged as a sexist or “traitor” myself. But sexism and misogyny exist in all fields and are insidious elements in every society. What I AM condemning is what seems to be a fevered frenzy at the moment. I AM condemning the lack of judiciousness on the part of the public. Allegations are ‘coming out of the woodwork’ about claims of hands on knees, or “inappropriate suggestions,” or implicit expectations, or “gropes,” from a variety of sources, which, in my opinion, undermines actual rape, assault, and battery and adds to a cacophony that is no longer really listened to, becoming, instead, part of an over-information storm akin to the environment depicted in A Brave New World. Why aren’t people being more critical about the recent barrage of sexual misconduct claims against celebrities and public figures? Why aren’t people considering the details, such as source, context, the current social climate (desire for celebrity status, however short lived, an age of “alternative facts” and moral perceptions entering popular “knowledge” and worse, politics, rising populism in the face of fear and a general sense of powerlessness, etc.).

Why aren’t we looking to the elements that create sexism and misogyny in the first place? I won’t even get into philosophical ruminations on the role of woman as “other” in society, but suggest concrete considerations: perhaps start with inequality in reproductive care, such as easy access to birth control or a safe abortion? Or inadequate financial help for single mothers? Or inequality in pay for the same work between men and women, as well as unequal opportunities to enter certain fields? Or inadequate practical support and protection for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault? Or inadequate representation of women in politics, which, perhaps, comes down to inequality in campaign financing? Or inadequate protection for women during divorce, especially from powerful or abusive husbands? Why are we, instead, focusing on the language we use, and exhibits of artwork, and ‘crimes’ based on hearsay propagated by social media platforms whose only interest is in identifying and categorizing the parameters of our consumer behavior?
If we protest the work of a great filmmaker based on his personal life – the details of which have not been proven without a doubt in a court of law anywhere in the world (prompting the question as to whether there is real respect for the law), then soon, we’ll be pulling books from male authors that discuss a woman’s body in a sexual light, of which there are many. And films that objectify women, of which there are many. And if we begin going down that road, we must eliminate classic film and literature that perpetuates stereotypes about women, men, Germans, Russians, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, the French, the Spanish, Arabs, or the Chinese. Why not watch them, read them, study and discuss them? Deconstruct and consider the context they were created in, and by whom, and the opinions and emotions they inspire in us now and ask “why” frequently. If we start censoring art and expression – which is what this is – then we will soon have a dull, moralistic, constrained society with little imagination motivated absolutely by fear and anger and, likely, suppressed violence. And meanwhile, there will be no difference in the real and practical source of inequality for women, which is, in my opinion, economic and representative inequality. We will have undermined it all in a great, drowning, cacophony without clarity of focus.

Personally, I would not want to live in a society such as this. In what I perceive to be a very worrying time politically, socially, and environmentally, I derive strength from film and literature of the past and present – their excellence gives me hope for and in humanity. And, critically speaking, Polanski’s canon of work is an example of the finest filmmaking.