Lisa Cholodenko is a bit of a name in the lesbian entertainment community, which is impressive, given that her output so far has consisted of High Art (1998), a small handful of (respectable) television episodes, and her latest film, The Kids Are All Right (Not to be confused with the documentary about The Who, The Kids Are Alright. Worth a watch!). Impressive, but not surprising, considering that lesbian films as terrible as Better Than Chocolate and Kissing Jessica Stein are considered classics of the genre. While man on man action took the country by storm with Brokeback Mountain, lesbians are still waiting for their breakout movie in which some chick doesn’t know how to quit some other chick. Granted, Gay Movies haven’t taken off to the same extent as, say, Superhero Films in the last few years, but for those who secretly crave mainstream recognition while outwardly shunning it (aka the disenfranchised), a nice big pat on the shoulder from Big Brother America would do a lot to even out the sibling rivalry between men who love men and ladies who love ladies.
The Kids Are All Right is not that big, watershed lesbian film, but it is a damn good one. Julianne Moore (The John Wayne of Wife characters) and Annette Bening’s mom play. . . Wait, that’s Annette Bening?! Anyway, they play the parents of Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland. . . 3D!!!!) and Josh Hutcherson (Not the new Spiderman. . . 3D!!!!). Each mother gave birth to one via the same anonymous sperm donor. One day, the kids decide that they want to meet their seeder, and it turns out to be cinema’s super-stud Mark Ruffalo. Hilarity, and learning, ensue. Tone wise, this is a true Comedy/Drama, in the grand tradition of films like those made by James L. Brooks or Billy Wilder. The humor and drama come from natural circumstances, not semen being shot into hair, or bank robberies being foiled. These are flesh and blood people, living day to day with their mundanities, their triumphs, and their fallacies.
And the area of “fallaciousness” is where this movie could become controversial. I was worried after seeing the trailer for this film; Not to give too much away, but the strange, backsliding trend of hetero affairs in lesbian cinema rears it’s ugly head here as well. But, I would argue, it’s done in a knowing way. It’s earnestness, particularly coming from a director who is a lesbian mother with a sperm donated child, reminds me of the ending of the movie 8 Mile. Eminem, knowing that his dirty laundry is about to be put on display, beats his opponent to the punch. Yes, his best friend is an Uncle Tom. Yes, his girlfriend is cheating on him. By opening himself up to ridicule, he deflates any sense of shame left inside of him. Cholodenko takes a similar tack; Yes, lesbians make mistakes. And we can make up for them. We are, after all, human, yes?
After that delightful estrogen soaked bath, my next visit to the theater is for the long awaited Sylvester Stallone bloodbath The Expendables, starring the TITANS OF ACTION CINEMA (Well. . . Stallone and Jet Li, at least. Plus, a couple of big cameos, some DTV guys, and wrestlers to fill the empty seats). The titular characters are a team of “Good” mercenaries, who are hired to kill some “Bad” mercenaries, on the island of, ahm, Vilenas. Guns go boom, women are rescued, and henchmen are turned to paste. There’s truth in advertising here; If you’ve seen the trailers, you know exactly what you’re getting (Except for Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis; They’re barely in the fucking thing.).
Honestly, The Expendables is the Sex And The City Movie for dudes. We know it’s shit, but we could never bring ourselves to admit it. The action scenes, despite an overuse of close-ups, are intense, brutal, and satisfying. Everything else is a little wonky. The script ain’t winnin’ no Oscars. Attempts at humor, and depth, are cringe inducing most of the time. But the Italian Stallion knows his audience, and for them he delivers, enduring many hardships in the process (Including, literally, breaking his neck.). All things told, I’m calling this a win.
Finally, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This movie flopped hard last weekend, which seems perfectly appropriate for a film that is both fantastic and way ahead of it’s time. Well, for most people, anyway. The rest of us are enjoying it now.
I was really excited when I first heard that Edgar Wright was adapting the comic series. What a perfect marriage of minds! The pop culture soaked, nerd director chronicling the adventures of a pop culture soaked, nerd hero. Then I saw the first trailer. . . hmmmm. I thought it looked a bit too literal with the Batman sound fx and comic book coloration. Plus, the casting all seemed very odd. Scott Pilgrim in the comic is an almost twitchy, easily distractible slacker, so. . . Michael Cera?! Didn’t seem like the right choice. I have to admit, my faith was not strong.
Having just come back from the film, I’ll say that all fears were laid to rest. I still think that 90% of the casting is really odd, but Edgar makes it all work. It’s a fun, kinetic thrill ride, with enough great jokes, characters, and visual gags to demand multiple viewings. Unlike the Safety Wrapped Nerdsploitation we’ve been offered, like the tv show The Big Bang, this doesn’t hold the hand of the mainstream. Either you get why the villains turn into coins, or you don’t.
What’s it about? Oh, yeah. In brief: Scott Pilgrim is an unlikely slacker lothario. He meets Ramona, the girl of his dreams. But, in order to keep her, he needs to defeat all 7 of her evil exes, in mortal kombat. Fun, huh?
So, which one to watch? I would recommend all of them, but you could probably hazard a guess as to which one you’ll enjoy the most based solely on plot synopsis. If your horizons are fairly broad, go check out Pilgrim. It’s a unique and special little gem of a film, so why not see it now, before it becomes cool to in 5 years?