As part of my goal to be more positive regarding the culture journalism world beyond plugging my own crap, I thought I’d start up my own thing (i.e. rip-off) akin to the likes of Criticwire’s Daily Reads or RogerEbert.com’s Thumbnails. These posts won’t be daily, but I’ll try to get at least one up each week or every two weeks.
I am also fully open to changing the name of this column. Suggestions welcome.
For future posts, I’d like to mostly just highlight pop culture writing/podcasts/videos from the prior week or so, but for this inaugural edition I’ll be shining a light on pieces that have stuck with me from the last month and a half.
Angelica Jade Bastien examines Robert Eggers’ The Witch as part of her ‘The Feminine Grotesque’ column for Vague Visages:
“The images that have stuck with me from The Witch are those that fully embrace the dark magic of its premise. A crow pecking at Katherine’s breast as she’s enraptured in a fever dream of the children she’s lost. The beady gaze of the goat, Black Phillip. Caleb’s pale, sick body vomiting an apple as he experiences his last moments on earth. The decrepit witch rubbing a salve made from Samuel’s flesh and blood upon her body, framed by the trees of the forest, lit by the pale moonlight. The witch, beautiful now in her striking red cloak, luring Caleb only to reveal an arm of an old woman — a grotesque juxtaposition of how a woman should look and the one thing she should never do: age. And poor Thomasin with the blood of her mother drying upon her neck and chest, naked to the Devil himself, who moves slowly around her as if he’s a jaguar encircling its prey. Yet for all its interest in female power, desire, and the way the patriarchy imprisons, The Witch doesn’t seem all that interested in female perspective. Thomasin’s story seems like the strongest, obvious choice to focus on. Instead, the film pivots from the perspectives of Katherine, William and their son Caleb to a greater degree than I expected. It could have been so much more powerful if it cared more about Thomasin’s interiority before we get to its dynamic (and perhaps unearned) conclusion. Even with its triumphant ending, The Witch never truly asks or answers the most important question. What does Thomasin want?”
Speaking of The Witch, Clarisse Loughrey has an ace take on the film as part of her That Darn Movie Show web series , which brings up interesting ideas regarding birth and blood in horror that has me keen to revisit the film. Watch below:
Robbie Collin‘s takedown of Hardcore Henry is one of my favourite pans of late:
“Its defining gimmick is that the whole thing has been filmed from the hero’s perspective, in the style of a first-person shooter video game – and in a miserable case of content following form, it’s also assimilated many of the very worst aspects of video-game culture, such as posturing nihilism, terrible dialogue, a rubber-necked fixation on injury detail, and gender politics straight out of a gibbon enclosure.”
Justine Smith writes a defence of the personal in film criticism over at Vague Visages:
“The beauty of the personal, in its imperfect glory, is that it has the power to shake away these illusions. The personal has an edge of danger and, as a result, can unravel what we have accepted about the applicability of the universality of experience. Great writing that integrates personal anecdotes and experience, which integrates the “I”, can be empowering and revolutionary — when in the old way of doing things, your voice was silenced or cast aside. The personal has the power to break away from the old guard, to break away from the tenants of an artificial objectivity built on the shoulders of the old ways of thinking.”
The aforementioned Clarisse also has this brilliant dissection of the problem with Zack Snyder’s female characters over at The Independent:
“The problem with Snyder’s female characters doesn’t lie with his intentions; the idea of utilising his baroque, larger-than-life female heroes to carve a narrative in which victimhood gives way to empowerment has the potential to be a force for good, even of hope and inspiration. The issue, moreover, lies with its repeated use; driving an implication that a woman’s power isn’t native or naturally born like so many of his male characters, but can only be driven out of total disempowerment and suffering.”
Rep programmer Cigarette Burns has this fascinating look at what goes into getting and exhibiting increasingly rare 35mm prints:
“It’s different if the print you finally secure is faded or damaged beyond repair, because that’s the world saying it’s not going to happen, and it’s heart breaking. This happened when Cigarette Burns screened HANNO CAMBIATO FACCIA. I ran around the globe tapping up every single person I could find for a print of that film… I found one, but it was beet red. I knew I couldn’t screen that. I was tempted though. After nearly dropping the film, I decided that the film was too important to not show, regardless of the format.”
Over at Brooklyn Magazine, Abbey Bender offers a fun look at the fashion of the perennially underrated Josie and the Pussycats, on the occasion of its fifteenth anniversary:
“The source material for Josie and the Pussycats comes from the 1960s, and the comics reflect the girl group style of the time, with the band often clad in slightly varied versions of the same leopard-print outfit. The 1990s love affair with 60s and 70s style continued into the early years of the new millennium, and we can particularly see this influence in Melody’s (Tara Reid) crocheted, hippieish accessories. An obvious precedent for the Josie movie is Spice World (1998), and with The Spice Girls recently broken up, pop-punk on the rise, and nostalgia and hunger for adaptations ever-present, 2001 seemed like the perfect year for the comic book band to make their way to the screen.”