Nick Valdez's blog
Flixist  News Editor

11:52 AM on 05.20.2013

Few thoughts on Luhrmann's Great Gatsby

Since these are only assorted musings without enough meat (or clean up) to warrant a full feature, I'll put them in a nice little c-blog. I figure this would be a nice way to start a conversation for those who've seen it. I'll try to avoid direct spoilers (as to how things are shown), but I'm going to allude to them if I remember having an issue with it.

-The original novel is full of terrible folks who do terrible things for terrible reasons. While that sort of comes through in Luhrmann's adaptation (as the bloated nature of the party scenes exemplify the characters' singular worldview), with greater focus on Nick (who's mainly relegated to third person narrator in the text for a reason) and Gatsby's relationship, some of the darker aspects of the text don't make it.

For one, Daisy isn't a bad person. She's only sort of selfish and indecisive. From what I understood from the text, you're supposed to feel pity toward Gatsby (and thus his "Great" title makes sense as he's the only character who thinks about something other than himself, even if it's selfish in a roundabout way) since he's done so much for a hollow shell of a person. Daisy isn't given enough time in the film that doesn't involve her on a pedestal of some sort.

-Luhrmann's style worked for me because it seems that he's found a better way to control the pompous nature of his films. When it's necessary he blows things out of proportion (like the car chase or the fantastic marriage of style and substance with Gatsby's initial reveal), but it's the smaller intimate moments that showed the most promise. When there was no backing track, and only fans blew in the wind (But one stylistic choice pushes it into the stupidly melodramatic. I won't say which one here, but I will hit that it involves Jack White's "Love Is Blindness.")

-There are occasional lapses in pace, but they don't last long. In fact, they help to promote the stagnancy of character development. You should feel like things are moving along "ceaselessly."

-Nick and Jordan's romance wasn't explored. While this isn't necessarily terrible as the film gets a pleasant homoerotic tinge, it relegates Jordan to the sidelines as much as it does Daisy. Female tend to have a rough time in this story in general, but it was never to this degree.

-The original text's racist overtones are handled splendidly in the film. Black actors and actresses are smoothly in the background (some even get to party), and Gastby has servers from different races.

-Baz Luhrmann listens to as much Pop music as I do. That "Crazy in Love" cover? HNGGGG

Hmm, I think that's it. There's one thing at the end to which irritated the begonias out of me for its "movie-ness," but I'll let it go for now.   read

4:07 PM on 01.12.2013

Nick's Top Five Films of 2012

Seriously you guys, 2012 was awesome. There may have been a few duds, but overall it was nothing but the good stuff. Now you may or may not have read my list of the nine best hero films of last year, but as much as I enjoyed those films, there were a few standouts that go beyond the "hero" genre.

With that said, some of the items in this list may be repeats (with good reason), but when taking all of the films released last year into account, my favorite film was actually quite different. So, if you care to, read on for more.

5. ParaNorman

As I explained in the hero list, ParaNorman was a story about me. It took an awkward, misunderstood kid and made him a badass by the end of his story. What I forgot to mention was that Norman wasn't a badass in the conventional sense. He was victorious through his kindness rather than physical strength or skill. The awesome lesson of "be kind to others and be a true hero" is one that's rarely seen in this day and age. Also, it's totes stop motion animation, and Laika needs all the support they can get. THEY NEED TO MAKE MORE MOVIES.

4. Django Unchained

Django Unchained was f***ing brilliant. As you'll hear in the Flixist Movie Club, most of us loved the hell out of it. I for one loved the dance between subtly and exploitation. And the truly best films are the ones that stick with you weeks after you've seen it. Thinking back on it, I've discovered things that I didn't notice before. Like the juxtaposed opening and contrasting tones in scenes, to foreshadowing lines of dialogue, to little things in the directorial work which make the film substantially better. While it's not my favorite Tarantino film (that honor goes Jackie Brown), it's damn well one of my favorite films ever. It's cracked that top 10.

3. Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods both revitalized and recreated the horror genre. I've thought more about the effects and canon of this film within the genre than any other film. Because of its ties to horror culture, the very nature of the film can justify every super bad horror sequel. It explains why Jason attacks the same kind of folks in the same way thirteen times, it explains why awful reboots (I'm looking at you Elm Street) don't breathe new life into their franchises at all, and it took the boring, patiche nature of horror franchises and made them interesting again. It can all be attributed to the events of Cabin in the Woods. If the horror genre is responsible for Cabin in the Woods, Cabin in the Woods is therefore responsible for every film in the horror genre.

2. Sunny

While Sunny technically released in Korea two years ago, it didn't come to Netflix until last year (as Alec pointed out in his awesome list). That shouldn't matter since time is an illusion with Sunny. It is a beautiful, bittersweet, seemingly effortless film of seven young girls who vow to stay friends forever. From the seamless shifts between the past and the present, to the lack of evidence of a certain time period to make it seemingly timeless, to the wonderfully acted story of women that truly seemed to "click" with one another. None of Sunny seems fake, and none of it seems tied down. Save for a few story flaws, it's damn near perfect.

1. End of Watch

David Ayer is one of my favorite writers. I friggin' loved Training Day, and I was instantly interested the second I heard about End of Watch. Ayer excels at smaller character moments between loud explosive scenes, and I wanted to see him tackle to cops in Los Angeles. And I was right. While the found footage aspects were lacking in some areas, the genre itself allows for quieter moments that would normally break the pace of other types of films. Somehow the film avoids glorifying the crime world (as most Police films do) and focuses on the main relationship between Taylor and Zavala. They don't go looking for trouble, they just unfortunately find it. After End of Watch released, I didn't hear much buzz about it from people. I hope it wasn't ignored. When it releases on DVD in a couple of weeks from now, you owe it to yourself to give it watch. It's a story that finely balances intimacy, heart wrenching sorrow, action, and even a little bit of bittersweet comedy.

And for all of that, End of Watch is my favorite film of 2012.   read

11:38 AM on 07.05.2012

Chick Flix Club: Twilight

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Hello every/no one! Welcome to the first week of Twi-July! As a refresher, for the month of July, I will examine the four Twilight films because I have too much free time.

When I first started watching Twilight, I realized that the core of the film is basically Disney's version of Beauty and the Beast for the angsty generation (kind of nullifies that other one). There's a young woman who is separated from her family and eventually becomes enthralled with a monster who cannot really love her back since he's too different.

The difference here is that vampires like totally exist and the beast only abuses her because her loves her too much.

Is Twilight just Disney's Beauty and the Beast remade for Generation Angst? Am I Team Edward or Team Jacob? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.

Twilight is the story of Isabella "Bella" Swan (Kristen Stewart) as she moves to a small (apparently very cold) town to live with her father. She meets Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and instantly falls head over heals for him when he reveals he is a vampire that has to force himself away from her because he loves her so much. Bella then gets caught up in some deadly family business.

Twilight is a surprisingly hard film to judge as a "chick flick". It follows the rules well enough. Bella is a literal and figurative outsider as she moves to a new town and keeps herself at a distance from the other, oddly super friendly, students at her school. Edward is introduced into her life and she becomes the literal center of her world as other vamps fight over her apparent super tasty blood. There's also very sparkly man candy. That's always a plus.

There is a lot to like about this film despite some major glowing faults. The film has a very "quirky" tone. In the film's small town setting, there a wonderful sense of disconnect from time. It negatively effects believability when I'm not sure how much romantic investment each character has placed in their relationship over time. The small town setting also brings a Cheers vibe, where everyone knows Bella's name, which is at first off-putting but ultimately successful. Also I love one stunningly obtuse scene in the film, where the Cullens play vampire baseball, for its outlandish shift in tone from the rest of the dreary film. It's so damn wacky that it's hard not to crack a smile.

Because Bella's a teenager, I can force myself to accept her questionable logic at times where she needlessly puts herself in danger for some dude. I've learned from analyzing Mean Girls that teenagers act pretty dumb sometimes. All character interaction feels like quick passionate flings that seem to throw caution into the wind which is proper for a traditional "high school teenager" relationship. If Twilight was going for an underlying tone of unintentional hilarity and dumb teenagers, then the film does a good job.

Now for the problems. Bella is a weird, slightly unlikeable person. She's standoffish to her father and the people around her, and when others try to approach her she willingly ignores them while she remains "irrevocably" infatuated with an animalistic ideal. Normally in the "chick flick" genre, the main female lead has qualities that make her an outsider but her positive attitude and other good qualities makes the audience root for her. Bella has none of these. Ultimately, her nature made me question why Edward has a fascination beyond her smellin' reeeeeal good.

Edward is also problematic as the main male lead. Twilight tweaks the male influence in the genre to an extreme degree. Edward constantly refers to himself as an "animal" or "predator". He warns Bella of how dangerous he is, but he backhandedly lures her further in as well. Throughout the film, there is a power play between the two leads that ends in Edward's victory. Bella may be unlikeable, but in the beginning of the film, she had some inner strength as a female character. She seems capable of making her own decisions, like choosing to live with her father instead of her mother, and at one point gives advice to one of her "friends" and calls her a "strong, independent woman". Unfortunately she throws that away, as well as her father figure, in favor of infatuation as Edward becomes the new center of her life. She's literally nothing but a sensual snack for him.

At times, Twilight is self aware of the abusive angle Edward and Bella's relationship takes. Edward mentions his vampire abilities allow him to seduce and consume his prey, so it calls into question every interaction he has with Bella. How much of their relationship is real? How much is Edward "playing with his food"? Edward carries far too much power between the two of them as the film notes how much stronger he is than her. Bella is reduced to this fragile object in need of protecting that cannot control her own emotions while Edward has the apparent self control to remain chaste and not consume her completely.

Bella and Edward's relationship has regrettably abusive undertones. Edward throws Bella around, he tells her what to think and how to act, and always reminds her of how strong he is. But at the same time, he "cannot leave her side" as he's afraid he's going to her hurt her. This comes to a head during the final scenes of the film. When Bella is in the hospital, and you remove all background information and just keep the dialogue and environment, Edward states that he put her there and needs to leave before he puts her there again. It's alarming when she begs him to stay.

I want to discuss the film a bit more, but I feel that the other three (released) films in the saga will allow me to eventually dissect every facet of Edward and Bella's relationship. As a standalone film in the "chick flick" genre though, Twilight centers around a beastly abusive relationship that sends unfortunate messages to the pale Generation Angst with a woman who gives up her life for some dude who just thinks of her as prey.


Next time (now on Thursdays!), Chick Flix Club is in the second week of Twi-July!

Next Time (July 12): New Moon

Last Time (June 20): 50 First Dates

Questions, suggestions, or comments? Drop me a line below!   read

1:41 PM on 06.25.2012

Summer Movies: Cue 'Splosions

Have you seen Idiocracy? If you haven't, you really should. There's a scene in it where a few cops blow up a police car resulting in a huge crowd of "brosephs" celebrating around it. Suffice to say, every summer, the same thing happens to my brain. I'm not entirely sure what causes my brain to operate less efficiently, but I think I've narrowed down the reason (you know, other than that other one): explosions.

There's something special about this subtle, yet gloriously hyperbolic cue that tells me it is okay to stop thinking. When a film features an explosion or two, that's when I know I shouldn't point out plot holes, character logic, or basic screenplay writing ethic. I should just recklessly cheer when I see stuff 'sploded up and what not.

Well...I'm not sure if I want to do that anymore. I don't feel like I celebrate destruction as much as I used to. The whole scene just seems blasé at this point.

What the hell is happening to me?

Let me start at the beginning. A couple of years back, a friend and I chose chose to view every film released during the summer (starting with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) for no real apparent reason. It was fine at first. Each week's release had enough diversity to keep the whole shebang from getting stale. For example, one weekend we saw Get Him to the Greek with The A-Team the weekend after. While each film had their lacking moments, neither was exactly the same. There wasn't an over-indulgence of 'spolsions.

Summer 2010 was just fine, so my friend and I kept the tradition going for 2011. Through the superheroic adaptations, I began to notice a pattern with each film. In fact, I expected each one to play out in specific way. Each of the significant films that summer (other than a very special few) made a special point to include destructive set pieces and hyper-realities instead of well thought out plots and character development.

Now, do I necessarily need every film to rattle my brain organ? Absolutely not. Popcorn fodder does have a special place in my heart but I'm tired of expecting that fodder. I want to be challenged, entertained, while being allowed to think. 'Splosions have become too easy to rely on. They have become a crutch that allows films to coast through on the same Point A to Point B plots. Want to challenge conventions? No? Then produce a 'splosion!

This year the 'splosion mentality is getting worse. Take a look at the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Notice how the trailer adds 'splosions? I mean a tree literally 'splodes when he strikes it with an axe! Alternative reality historical fiction (that's a mouthful) should create an awesome enough premise without over-reaching for entertainment value. Granted I have never read the actual text, but I would assume having Lincoln as a central character could draw all sorts of awesome civil rights and humanities parallels which would force the general audience to reconsider how they view the subjects themselves. Adding 'splosions (and general lazy plot Summer mentality) just seems to ruin the premise's potential because I know I should shut off my brain for it and shouldn't expect deeper meaning from the material.

All that recent hooplah from Ridley Scott's Prometheus? I would argue that the backlash was a result of the film releasing during the wrong season. Prometheus is a thinker's film for the first two acts. Going into mild spoiler territory, there is a 'splosion that cements the Summer mentality within the final act. It sends the wrong message as it basically implies, "Alright, time to forget about logic now" which undermines the very atmosphere the film worked so hard to create. As an audience, we weren't entirely sure how to approach it. The 'splosion cue told us to stop thinking while the rest of the film wanted to promote philosophical conversation.

'Splosions have been relied on so much that they have become outright lies. Lies causing some truly great gems to fall by the wayside.

Through my many misadventures at the Summer theater, I realized the films I enjoyed the most were ones that broke away from the formulaic nature of the season. Unfortunately, most of the time, these hidden gems are skipped in favor of a 'splosion flick (Did you see Winnie the Pooh last Summer?). This year, the films I look forward to the most showcase the most uniqueness, like Paranorman and Brave. The trailers hint at the cinematic soul that 'splosions and the Summer mentality tend to take away. I expect Brave to do extremely well, but for a poor Coraline-esque film like Paranorman? Poor thing doesn't stand a chance in hell.

Honestly, I don't know what's wrong with me. It's not that I'm desensitized to destruction or tired of context appropriate explosion action, but the "awesome lobe" of my brain doesn't fire on all cylinders during the Summer anymore. I liked The Avengers, but just not as much as the ten year old me would have. Even the posters and trailers for The Dark Knight Rises don't have the same effect as Dark Knight's advertising did. Expendables 2? I should have had a heart attack with all of those explosions and action icons!

Wait a minute...I just figured out what's wrong with me. I'm not tired of the lazy Summer mentality. I'm tired of watching the same damn thing over and over again. Please, no more sequels. In fact, take some of the mentions of "splosions" in this article and replace it with the word "sequel" and the whole thing makes much more sense.

Why don't I like sameness anymore? Because I love movies.   read

10:23 PM on 06.20.2012

Chick Flix Club: 50 First Dates

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Like The Wedding Singer before it, 50 First Dates is a romantic comedy with "Sandler quirk". Also like Singer, 50 First Dates has a lot of the same problems since it reverses the conventional gender roles of the "chick flick" genre. Fortunately, this film has a lot more positive than negative.

I'm just not sure how much more "Sandler quirk" I can take.

What are the positives and negatives? Why do I crave pineapples? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

As always, spoilers ahoy hoy.

Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) is a womanizer who preys on tourists of his hometown in Hawaii. That suddenly changes when he meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and falls in "like" with her. Trouble is, Lucy lacks the ability to convert short term memory to long term memory, so her new experiences are wiped clean every time she sleeps. Henry has to find a way to approach Lucy and get her to go out with him each and everyday.

In the last segment, I discussed why I thought Sandler might have been a good character actor as long as the character was well thought out. I mean does the character have a personality beyond raging weirdo? In this department, 50 succeeds. Although I may not personally like Henry, he seems well established and goes through a fine enough evolution through the film. He starts off as a womanizer who uses the same tricks (as established during the cavalcade of women in the intro), but realizes that he needs to change in order to impress a woman with actual substance.

That brings me to Lucy. At first I thought she would go the same route as Julia in Singer, but as the film went on, she proved to have character definition beyond her one-dimensional seeming illness. I was honestly ready to not like her as much as I did. Oddly enough, I believe her illness of forgetting new information overnight actually strengthens her character. Every time she "reboots" there is a new aspect of Lucy's personality. When Henry tries his original cheap tricks on her, they work one day but he hilariously strikes out on the next several occasions. Her "reboots" force Henry to grow in order to accommodate her ever changing personality. Because of the constant changes, their eventual coupling seems well earned.

The world built around the two leads is also pretty well realized. There are enough characters supporting Lucy which gives it a "small town" vibe, but there are hints of a greater world around them. Nick (Pomaika'i Brown) steals every scene he's in as a wise cracking chef, Sue (Amy Hill) replaces the absent mother figure well enough, Dan Aykroyd makes an awesome cameo, and Rob Schneider as Ula sort of steals the show. Ula is a stereotypical pot smokin' islander, but he is just "Sandler quirky" enough to be entertaining without becoming annoying what with his "ugly" wife, shark bites, and ton of kids.

Now to explain what I don't like about 50 First Dates. As much as I praised the films intelligent use of Lucy's illness, I do not like how the film is ultimately resolved through videotapes. Lucy's plight is understandably rough, and I believe the film underplays that fact. Henry eventually devises a way to break the news of Lucy's accident in the form of a videotape that she needs to watch every morning. Admittedly, it's not exactly gentle but it seems slightly insensitive from someone who isn't an immediate family member. It's just weird Lucy's father would go through the effort of re-creating the events of the day of her accident but not just straight out tell her. I do realize, realistically, how hard it must have been for Lucy's father to come to his decision to lie to his daughter but the film never truly explores these issues.

Her illness is only taken seriously during a few key moments, but that's negated by the film's ending. Lucy eventually remembers Henry (after she erases him from her memories in a non-convoluted way) through a gut feeling and dreams which seem to defy all reason in order to satisfy the viewer. It's a cop out. I'm not even going to mention the ethical implications of impregnating a woman with no real short term memory and taking her to Alaska. Since Lucy becomes a subordinate character, the film follows Henry as he tries to win her over and it becomes a comedy. I don't (usually anyway) like to harp on a film because of lost potential, but that's exactly what I'm doing here.

Finally, the "Sandler quirk" is far too overbearing in this film. There's a manwoman, walrus vomit, several mentions of nocturnal emissions and walrus genitalia, and it all just wore me down.

All in all, this film does have more positive than negative (about 60/40 to be precise). I like that reversing the gender roles in the genre doesn't result in a complete personality void of a female lead, but I don't like the overbearing "Sandler quirk".

I just I'm just tired of using the phrase "Sandler quirk". Too hard to write.

Next month is special! I'll be plowing through the four Twilight films each Wednesday since I like totally just finished reading/watching them. Look forward to it?

Next Time (July 4): Twilight

Last Time (June 7): The Wedding Singer

Questions, suggestions or comments? Drop me a line below!   read

7:27 PM on 06.07.2012

Chick Flix Club: The Wedding Singer

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Before Adam Sandler began his onslaught of lackluster comedies (Grown Ups and You Don't Mess With the Zohan), he was involved in a short streak of "chick flick" films (like Big Daddy, Mr. Deeds, and Click) which started with 1998's The Wedding Singer.

Even with Sandler's trademark "quirk," this film manages to tell an interesting (albeit not that compelling) romantic story with characters that seem more human than in most of Sandler's other romantic comedies. Although each character's personality is slightly exaggerated, there is a redeemable core that ultimately makes the experience.

Why are the characters more "human" than Sandler's other "chick flicks"? Does reversing the sex of the lead character change the properties of the genre? Does any of that matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.

Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) is a wedding singer who is left at the alter and Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore) is a waitress who is engaged to a pompous playboy, Glenn (Matthew Glave). Through the course of some wacky adventures, they find out that they are in a relationship with the wrong person and Julia and Robbie actually like one another.

The Wedding Singer reminds me of a time I thought Sandler had potential as an actor. Robbie is pretty well characterized, at least compared to his previous extreme portrayals. Robbie's broken relationship causes him to go through an emotionally believable arc as he goes from confident to unstable. Most importantly, Robbie is believably human. In Happy Gilmore, Sandler plays a man-child with anger issues who happens to be extremely proficient in swinging a club or stick. In Billy Madison, he's a man-child who needs to go to elementary school. In Wedding Singer, he plays a wedding singer. You see where I'm going with this? He's not an overt man-child.

Since this film is full of Sandler's trademark "quirk," there are also numerous one-liners and cameos that are more hit than miss.The film's ancillary characters take the film's 80's aesthetic and mirror famous individuals of the time. Glenn (Julia's fiance) is dressed as Don Johnson in Miami Vice, George (Robbie's backup singer) is basically Boy George, and countless others. Even if I didn't live in the 80's, the references still made me chuckle a bit. Sandler also tends to force singing into each of his films, and this is one of the few occasions where it is appropriate. In fact, when his singing is played for comedic value (he sings a bipolar song about his ex-girlfriend) it makes sense instead of feeling out of place and awkward.

Above: Jon Lovitz makes a hilariously creepy cameo.

With a male character in the lead role of the film, the rules of the "chick flick" genre are subverted but practically work in the same manner. Instead of a man entering a outsider type woman's life, it is a woman entering a outsider type man's life. Robbie is an outsider: he's orphaned, he desperately wants to get married, and he is a failed rock musician. My main problem with the film is that even if the sexes are reversed, the power between the two does not shift. In the genre, the mysterious stranger is supposed to change the life of the lead as the stranger shows the lead a different perspective. In Singer, the lead changes the life of a random subordinate character.

Drew Barrymore's Julia, is a genre lead trapped in an Adam Sandler film. Conventionally, Julia's situation is made for a certain women's network film. She's engaged to a man who is cheating on her and is just going through the motions in her life. But she is relegated to a subordinate role as she is mainly there to react to Robbie's shenanigans. She doesn't showcase too much strength as a character, but there are moments where she is a free thinker. She is a kind person, but that is pretty much her only quality. Robbie seduces her to a slight extent and eventually wins her favor. When he eventually relates his feelings toward her, there is a cute moment between the two that feels earned despite the awkward notions of power between the two.

My biggest problem with the film is the ending. I really dislike when a "chick flick" ends in a marriage because of the negative way it affects most stories of the genre. In film centered around weddings, Robbie and Julia's wedding at the end was rushed. Granted I am unaware of the amount of time passed between the final two scenes of the film (from the plane ride to the their wedding), so I can only assume their wedding was just there to keep with the overall theme of the film. Both of these characters just got out of harsh relationships to be with another character which means that they are "rebounding" from their previous relationship. With that in mind, their marriage becomes a wrongly made snap judgment.

All in all, I still enjoyed The Wedding Singer very much. The Sandler "quirk" eventually won me over because it was not very overbearing, the ancillary characters and cameos were hilarious, and it did tweak the genre formula enough to keep it fresh and distinct.

Arguably, The Wedding Singer may not be a "chick flick" film by definition, but next time, Sandler reunites with Barrymore for another succesful crack at the genre with a more traditional template...

Next Time (Jun. 21): 50 First Dates

Last Time (May 23): To Wong Foo

Questions, comments, or suggestions? Drop me a line below!

EDIT: Sorry for the delay!   read

11:08 PM on 05.23.2012

Chick Flix Club: To Wong Foo

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Aww, final week of Patrick Sway-May! Glad you could make it!

I have to admit the first time I watched To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, I was enthralled with what I considered to be a novelty. Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes, two action hero tough guys (John Leguizamo notwithstanding), wearing women's clothing? "That is so wacky!"

After years of consideration and retrospect, To Wong Foo has a greater amount of merit than I initially gave it credit for. In fact, To Wong Foo is in my "Top 5". Though the tough question to ask is why do I like it? Well, it revealed another world to me without coming off as condescending or insulting while it attempts to break all of the set rules for the "chick flick" genre.

What rules does To Wong Foo break? Why does one of the leads share a namesake with a face cleansing product? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy

In To Wong Foo, Vida (Patrick Swayze) and Noxeema (Wesley Snipes) win the chance to compete in the Drag Queen of America pageant and take a trip to California. Before they go, they run into Chi-Chi (John Leguizamo) and take her under their wing. Because of this, Vida decides to sell their plane tickets to buy a Cadillac and drive across the United States. Naturally, they run into some trouble as they eventually end up in the small town of Snydersville.

Although it may not be the first film to do so, To Wong Foo remodels the gender aspects of character development within its genre, and alters the genre with its unconventional lead characters. For example, two of the four rules (you can read a refresher of those rules here) are heavily influenced by the gender and sexuality of the main leads. The genre foolishly assumes that when there is an outsider type female lead she will instantly have an attraction to the main male lead who is introduced into her life. The leads of this film, however (Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi), are homosexual men who "have too much fashion sense for a single gender".

By tweaking the conventional gender and sexuality assumptions of the genre's main characters, the film allows growth of the leads through the course of the film. Vida deals with a woman in an abusive relationship, Carol Ann (Stockhard Channing, Rizzo), Noxeema connects with an elderly woman while Chi-Chi has the most interesting character arc of the three. Chi-Chi actually experiences the typical arc for a female lead in "chick flicks". She's first introduced as an outsider from two worlds, the male and drag queen worlds, and lacks a true place. Vida and Noxeema refer to her as a "little latin boy in drag" until her growth is complete. It is almost as she has to change due to Vida and Noxeema, the confident influence in her life normally reserved for heterosexual male characters. She also goes through the conventional "romantic arc" as she meets a boy in the Snydersville and has to choose between him and her aspirations.

While Chi-Chi potentially changes the most, Vida is also an interesting character to watch. It is pretty hard to pin exactly what her role is within the film. At times she's the female lead, like when she's assaulted by a police officer (resulting in one of the most hilarious moments in the film), but most of the time she acts as the male lead. When she decides to take Chi-Chi along on the trip, she becomes the male influence in Chi-Chi's life (according to the rules). When she rescues Carol Ann from her abusive husband she charges in and cements her place as the male lead (which then results in Carol Ann's displaced romantic interests). That is ultimately why Patrick Swayze was perfect for the role. When Vida acts as the male lead it's believable, rather than forced, thanks to Swayze's ability to portray himself as a bad ass regardless of the unconventional situation.

Unfortunately, the film does have some flaws. While Vida and Chi-Chi go through respectable growth arcs, Noxeema does not. She's mainly a mentor figure for Chi-Chi, especially when she teaches her about the drag world, and acts as more of a growth catalyst for Snydersville (she helps to literally transform the women and men of the town through the film). There's a moment in the middle of the film when they fight amongst each other and Vida and Chi-Chi are passionate while Noxeema's character lacks the necessary substance to be in the same room as those two. The moment emphasizes Noxeema's lack of change up to that point. Her actions during that fight almost seem unjustified because of it.

The film is also pretty dated. A lot of the "bigoted small town" jokes seem out of place currently and Julie Newmar as a role model for the main women is a little harder to believe due to her current lack of relevance. Also, knowing that Leguizamo goes on to play the same type of character for the next several years to come diminishes Chi-Chi's fiery character a bit. It's a nitpick sure, but I'm painfully reminded of his career every time Chi-Chi speaks.

Although there are some flaws, To Wong Foo manages to accomplish some great things. The film is not saturated with messages of equality, albeit heavily hinted toward, and it trusts the audience to hear its message of accepting others regardless of gender or sexaulity. The fact that Snipes and Swayze decided to be in this film in the first place is a great testament to both of their better characteristics. Their acting doesn't feel forced or insulting to the drag art form (although Snipes does walk the line a bit), and the story is not afraid to break a few genre rules.

I could honestly write on To Wong Foo forever (and create an analytical essay about the nature of gender and character development in the genre) but I'll end it here. I just simply accept this film for its flaws and amazing moments. To me, it seems serious enough to avoid parodying the drag art form and instead celebrates it with the confidence even Patrick Swayze (and RuPaul!) could endorse.

Next time, I'm focusing on two Adam Sandler films. Mostly because I couldn't decide on secret "chick flick" films or to focus on a single actor. Fortunately for me, Adam Sandler does both of these things. While seeming to be another "dick flick" film, two of his films actually follow the "chick flick" genre rules pretty well...

Next Time (Jun. 6th): The Wedding Singer

Last Time: (May 16th): Ghost

Questions, suggestions, or comments? Drop me a line below!

Also, really hoped you enjoyed Patrick Sway-May! Next event will be Twi-July! Look forward to it!   read

6:42 PM on 05.16.2012

Chick Flix Club: Ghost

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Welcome to the second week of Patrick Sway-May! Glad you could make it!

When I saw Ghost for the first time (I was about ten or so and it was on TBS or something), I took it at face value. I just thought it was an awesome story about a ghost and his love of pottery (Although, I do have to admit watching a film featuring Patrick Swayze's ghost is a little awkward now).

In retrospect, I had it pegged all wrong. Watching it again with my new "chick flick" perspective, I found out Ghost twists genre rules and becomes a greater film for it. It is the first truly "romantic" story I have covered for this club. A "romance" portrayed in all of the correct ways.

What is Ghost's big twist of the genre rules? Will I take up pottery as a result of watching this film? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.

Ghost is a story about two folks in a relationship, Sam (Patrick Swayze) and Molly (Demi Moore), and Carl (Tony Goldwyn) who is tangled with drug dealers and money problems. One night, Sam is killed during an orchestrated mugging and his ghost wanders the Earth (occasionally getting help from the psychic Oda Mae (Whoopi Goldberg) in order to save Molly from suffering the same fate.

Two of the major "chick flick" rules are that the female lead has to be an outsider and a man has to come into her life and change it forever. Ghost's reversal of these rules is the film's greatest strength. At the outset, the relationship between the two leads is fully formed and functional. There's very little room for development with these two other than saying "I love you" to one another. This film studies the effects on a female lead's life when the male influence is removed thus resulting in great character work.

Swayze somehow is still a badass after he becomes a ghost. There's a desperation through all of his actions that I never noticed before. When he's forced to just observe the action in the film, and thus ceases to interact completely with other characters, something happens to his acting. Sam is far more emotionally driven than Swayze's other characters, and it is not an effect caused by the genre itself. His desperation and emotional connection with Molly that holds him to the living world seems earned rather than forced as in some cases in the genre. Swayze accesses a range that was rarely seen from him through his portrayal as Sam.

Sam and Molly's relationship initially seems underdeveloped, but surprisingly, that is remedied through the course of the film. The film is aware of the lack of initial development between the two and makes that the most important aspect of the film. Oda Mae comes in as the physical representation of the audience. When she learns of the past relationship between Sam and Molly, the relationship develops between the two as the audience learns of their long history with one another. When Sam tells Oda Mae things only Molly would know, he hints bit by bit at a past that we have not seen. Because of this, Sam's feelings of helplessness and Molly's descent into depression at his loss become all the more believable.

Pictured: Sex-ay pottery.

I only have one slight problem with Ghost and it is with Sam's ability to physically interact with the world. Sam's helplessness it was drives the film, and when he gains this strength it cheapens it. He becomes just like all of Swayze's other characters: imposing and larger than life. The guardian angel aspect of his character becomes far too literal. Despite my problems with it, his interaction with the physical world does lead to an impressive emotionally poignant moment between Sam and Molly that lead to me to cry shameful, but super manly tears.

Molly also seems like a weak female, but I can't fault the character too much for her portrayal as she just lost someone integral to her life. I believe in her depression thanks to Moore's impressive acting, and when Oda Mae's life was on the line (when Carl attacked her) she didn't hesitate to take action. Oda Mae is another strong female character. She's initially hesitant in following a man's wishes and is smartly taking advantage of others as a con woman. She goes through a well executed arc when she evolves from unwilling participant to someone willing (albeit slightly coerced) to give up four million dollars to a charity.

Ghost's greatest accomplishment is how genuine everything comes off as. I got enthralled in the story of two lovers trying to reconnect with one another in spite of death itself. I believe in everything this film shows me. The depiction of heaven is appropriately divine, and the demons who drag lost souls down to hell are extremely disturbing. It makes me wish that Swayze did more of these kind of submissive roles before he left us.

I love everything about Ghost, from its awkward phallic pottery to the wonderful heart at its center.

R.I.P Patrick Swayze, you will always be amazing to me.

Next week, I'll go over one of Swayze's finest roles as he defined his place within the "chick flick" genre (beyond super good looking dude) by placing himself in a different set of shoes...

Next Time (May 23): To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar

Last Time (May 9th): Dirty Dancing

Questions, suggestions, or comments? Drop me a line below!

EDIT: Attention awesome readers! I need help deciding on next month's theme! Should I do "chick flicks" disguised as "dick flicks" or should I focus on another actor/actress? I would appreciate the help!   read

11:03 PM on 05.09.2012

Chick Flix Club: Dirty Dancing

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

I have to shamelessly admit this right off the bat, Dirty Dancing is one of those films I'll never truly get. I originally guessed that it was because I wasn't in "the audience" for it, but that's a terrible excuse. Every film is for everyone regardless of rating or content. It's just that every time I watch it, I get a creepy feeling from the main relationship between Baby and Johnny.

My mother and sister adore this film so much, but I never quite understood why. So for this week's segment, I'm going to try and slowly figure out why there is such a dissonance between myself and Dirty Dancing.

Is there anything wrong with Dirty Dancing or is it just me? Can anyone put Baby in the corner? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.

Dirty Dancing involves the story of Frances "Baby" Houseman (Jennifer Grey) as she and her family are on vacation at a mountain resort. Her father, Dr. Houseman (Jerry Orbach) expects her to go to college and follow his wishes. At the resort, however, she falls in love with a "street tough" dance instructor named Johnny (Patrick Swayze) when she has to replace his dance partner due to unfortunate circumstances.

Dirty Dancing has a few good things going for it in spite of its flaws. Frances ("Baby") is first introduced as a free thinking woman in spite of having an overbearing father. In contrast to her vain sister and her almost non-existent mother, Frances is inherently a strong female character. She wants to go to college to pursue a degree in third world economics (does that actually exist?) and is adamant about joining the peace core afterward. Frances at the beginning of the film seems flippant toward others, but that may be a result of her open displeasure with her life in general. A strength is derived from her ability to perceive faults in her lifestyle and willingness to change.

Swayze is well cast as Johnny as he is an effective badass in his trademark tiny black shirt and pants. Somehow, I believe this character can dance around and still ooze the amount of machismo the film claims that Johnny has. Since a lot of Frances's decisions are based on Johnny's influence, Swayze has to ride the line between alluring and strong as a character. It's so effective that when Johnny claims he had a rough life "on the streets" (to give him an emotional, "relatable" backstory) a was little inclined to believe him.

Also, Dirty Dancing has a training montage and that automatically makes it awesome. Sometimes, a training montage affects the growth of main character as it removes struggle sterilizing the feeling of success garnered by it. But I can assess that Frances struggles and dancing just doesn't come super easily to her. The fact that she puts in a great amount of effort to obtain dancing proficiency should be commended.

Although the film has good casting decisions and Frances's initial strength is commendable, Dirty Dancing is held down by confusing flaws which keep me from truly enjoying it. I truly dislike the main character's nickname. I had trouble figuring out whether or not Frances was a strong woman because of what the other characters were calling her. Frances stated that "she didn't mind" but it bugged me to no end. Every interaction feels derogatory as each person calls her "Baby". In fact, I figured Johnny didn't know her actual name until he states it at the end of the film.

Speaking of Johnny, as much as I like his "badassadry," I don't like what happens to Frances as a result. She completely submits to his sexual powers. When Frances first meets Johnny in his underground dance lair, she finds herself immersed in a hyper sexualized world. In this world, her former strength is meaningless as she fails to suppress her desires. Ever since her first dance with Johnny, Frances becomes completely enthralled and thinks only of him. It feels like she throws her life away for him, a common fault of "chick flicks". The rules limit Dirty Dancing's potential.

My main problem with the film, and most likely my reason for not grasping the premise in general, is the setting. Frances is on vacation for the summer which means that her cognitive proficiency will be effected in some capacity. The ultimate core of Dirty Dancing is Frances and Johnny's relationship. The setting basically degrades the value of the central relationship as it amounts to nothing but a summer fling during Frances's vacation. Since it's a summer fling, a lot of Frances's decisions have less brevity to them. The setting makes it seem like Frances throws away her strength and self-confidence for fling. It's sad, really. The film's ending doesn't relieve this problem either. There's not a lot of resolution that can come from a well-choreographed dance number.

All in all, discussing this film for the club still does not help my confusion. Frances is strong, but allows everyone to call her "Baby". She seems to literally transcend at the of the film, but it is all because a man allows it (Johnny literally lifts her up). Johnny declares that "no one puts Baby in a corner!" and every character in the film is automatically cool with that.

Instead of passing judgment on its merits in the "chick flick" genre, I'll hand this over to my mother who had a few choice words for this:

"She's a strong woman damn it! She flies at the end! All she wanted to do was escape, and Johnny shows her a new world where freedom is possible. It's my favorite movie of all time".

So, that's that.

Next week (that's right next week! It's the summer!), I'm going to discuss a film that feels odd to watch after Patrick Swayze's untimely death...

Next Time (May 16): Ghost

Last Time (Apr. 25): Mean Girls

Questions, suggestions, or comments? Drop me a line below!

EDIT: Sorry about the delay, I turned in two giant research papers today!   read

6:24 PM on 04.25.2012

Chick Flix Club: Mean Girls

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Mean Girls is a unique entity in the "chick flick" genre. A story that revolves around the lives of a few teenage girls manages to be relatable to almost anyone who has been an outsider. Although this film takes some situations to sometimes unrelatable extremes, there is an underlying genuine "heart" at its core.

While there will always be a small part of me arguing that this film is a light version of Heathers, there are enough differences that make it stand out.

What was it about Mean Girls that caused the "schmultzy" intro this week? How does this film about young white girls in high school relate to me, a 22 year old Spanish American manly man? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.

Mean Girls is a story about Cady (Lindsey Lohan), a former home schooled student from Africa, as she now finds herself within the good favor of Regina George (Rachel McAdams) and the Plastics, a popular clique at Cady's new school. After the Plastics turn on her, Cady gets the help of her friends Janis (Lizzy Caplan) and Damian (Daniel Franzese) to take them down from the inside.

Like in Heathers, Cady (sometimes hilariously pronounced as "Catty") as a main character is a different, more literal, type of outsider. She is extremely proficient in math, she's a young white girl from Africa, and she literally refers to her new school as "girl world". Because Cady is looking through outsider lenses, the ridiculous nature of cliques is exploited for humor and slightly exaggerated. Full disclaimer here though: Since I was never in the popular girl crowd in high school, I'm not completely sure how much of their interactions are exaggerated. I just assumed the poignant moments at least are a little rooted in reality.

The writing and dialogue exchanges of this film are superb. Since the screenplay is written by Tina Fey, of "Liz Lemon" fame, there are trademark smaller jokes and asides hidden within the main storyline. For example, one scene in the film had Damien passing out candy canes in a Santa outfit. Before he loudly interrupted a class in session, the teacher states "why is so huge and obnoxious?" as she refers to a short story. This moment showcases one of the film's many"blink and you'll miss it" jokes.

One of my favorite things about Mean Girls is the characterization of the ancillary characters. Regina George (her full name is always used) is delightfully spicy, and I would like to think that McAdams completely reveled in her darker mannerisms. Regina's "army of skanks," Gretchen and Karen (Eliza Thornberry and Sophie from Mamma Mia respectively) may be slightly on the dumber side of the spectrum but are entertaining to watch nonetheless as the eventually rebel against Regina George. Tina Fey plays a teacher who also works as a bartender, the school principal (Tim Meadows) has a few great one liners with an even greater deadpan delivery, and Janis becomes the strong female character this film needs since Cady tends to lack in that area.

Pictured: Janis's awesome plan for destroying Regina George.

At the beginning of the film, Cady shows the potential for strength...before a man is introduced in her life. Unfortunately, following the "chick flick" genre rules actually hinders this film from being truly awesome. Cady's desire to fit in drives her actions, and that desire causes her to make truly baffling decisions. She rarely takes action on her accord. Throughout the film, she's led around by other, arguably stronger females and changes her personality in order be "friends" with them. The man, Aaron Samuels, irritatingly causes the brunt of Cady's betrayals and pettiness.

As I mentioned earlier, Janis is a breath of fresh air. However, there is still a nagging feeling that she also falls in line with the general pettiness that guides "Cady" as well. The very idea of destroying Regina George is selfish, and generally something a woman with self-confidence would not do. A strong female would not be bothered by the ugly nature of others. There would be no way that a strong woman would devote their time and energy to destroy another.

But as much as the character motivations bother me, they also remain endearing. High school is a period of trauma and self discovery that has the potential to create genuine friendships and lifetime memories. The characterization is so well done that I can forgive these kids flaws and just enjoy their interactions with one another. At the end of the film, Cady seemed like she grew from her experiences and while she isn't entirely a strong female character, the Cady at the end of the film showed a lot more promise.

All in all, this film is pretty entertaining. Once again, I feel like I should qualify why it's entertaining. As a teen comedy/drama, Mean Girls is compelling. I loved watching Lizzy Caplan portray a confident, powerful woman while Rachel McAdams is an villain that I loved to hate. Unfortunately, as a "chick flick," the film falters. The genre rules don't help it at all.

I watched Mean Girls and I connected with it on a base level. I've felt the strange desire to recreate my identity to make friends before, but I never took it far enough. Mean Girls helped me to see what I could do with that desire if I was a young white suburbanite in high school instead of the super specimen of Spanish manliness I am now.

May is Patrick Swayze month! It's going to be a big event! Because he was so damn great, I'm shoving three articles in three subsequent weeks starting with...

Next Time: (May 9th): Dirty Dancing

Questions, suggestions, or comments! Drop me a line below!   read

5:12 PM on 04.11.2012

Chick Flix Club: Heathers

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

When first researching films for this club, a friend recommended Heathers to me while I was currently viewing Mean Girls. He said, "this one is more for dudes". To this day I still have no idea exactly what he meant, but I think I can get the gist of it.

Heathers is a film that takes "chick flick" genre troupes and emphasizes their inherent negativity. This is a film that is a borderline parody of both the "chick flick" and teen comedy/drama genres while still forging an interesting path of its own.

How does Heathers tweak genre rules? How does amplfying the intensity of the genre change the female lead? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Spoilers ahoy hoy.

Heathers follows the story of Veronica (Winona Ryder) as she struggles to fit in at high school. She joins a clique only known as the "Heathers" and has a distaste for her seemingly lavish lifestyle. Eventually she meets Jason (Christian Slater), and together they begin a streak of murders which they guise as suicides.

Veronica is different kind of outsider. She's popular, but has "quirky" characteristics. She writes in a diary, wears a monocle when she writes, she's intelligent, and openly displays a distaste for her popularity. Because Heathers displays the other end of the social spectrum, Veronica has the potential to be a strong female lead with the implication that, ideally, there are very few "characters" that can influence her decisions. Since Veronica is at the top of the food chain, her progression and growth has to take a different form (which I'll go in detail later).

This film is pretty great at creating an exaggerated reality. In this world, you can shoot a gun in the cafeteria and only get suspended for it. Speaking of guns, this film takes one of the set rules of "chick flicks" and parodies it. Conventionally, a male lead enters the female lead's life and makes her the most important person in the world. Jason enters Veronica's life when she was detaching herself from the world. Because he is a figment of this exaggerated reality, his inherently negative role within the genre metamorphoses his character into a dehumanized being.

Slater is the perfect person to play Jason Dean. His lanky build and Nicholson-esque mannerisms perfectly encapsulate Jason's descent into madness. Every one of his interactions with Ryder's Veronica has him almost chewing the scenery. Originally, I thought this was a bad thing but it later turned out to defy my expectations. As Jason slowly becomes Veronica's angel of darkness, his figure become more imposing and sexually driven while it loses its human characteristics. He controls Veronica's desire and uses it to further his own goals. Some of the greatest moments of the film deal with how Veronica confronts this being of darkness and overcomes it. It's pretty damn compelling.

This is normally the section where I discuss what I did not enjoy about the film. I have to confess that I disliked very little. Here, the good outweighs the bad. Forensic science is used very little to solve all of the murders. If it was used, Veronica would have been caught from the very beginning. Her fingerprints are all over each of her crime scenes. The police even were deterred away from her at one point when they discovered some "evidence" in a key hilarious scene. That annoyance went away as soon as I accepted the exaggerated reality. Since each murder was made to look like a suicide, Veronica's high school erupted in a sea of hilarious responses.

Kids are jerks, and this film is not afraid to parade around that fact. When hearing of the "suicides" for the three victims in this film, the school was more worried about their own individual lives. When the deaths of two young men are less important than the reasoning for their apparent suicide (the letter Veronica wrote pinned stereotypical homosexuality on the two), there is weird sense of dissonance between the youth of this film and the outside world. Despite that, I still loved the one liner from the father of one of the two boys, "I love my dead gay son!"

Also, Otho (Glenn Shadix) is the priest that resides over each of the funerals, and what is not to love about that.

Veronica is a very likable heroine (notice I did not use the phrase "female lead"). Almost...reasonable in her actions, which rarely happens in this genre. I argue that Veronica is a pretty strong female as well, as her actions were not controlled by the whims of a man. Jason does toy with her, but he is not a human being. A sociopathic sexual creature that Veronica eventually overcomes as she realizes the consequences of her terrible decisions. While her murderous whims could potentially peg her as weak, it is just merely a road of trials that she must overcome to become the hero. A matured woman is rarely seen standing alone at the end of "chick flicks".

Ultimately, Heathers takes the "chick flick" genre and intensifies it to the point of lunacy. Because of that, the female lead transcends her normal duties and becomes a hero (normally reserved for men). It is a competent thriller, a terrific teen comedy/drama, and perhaps the least deserving of the "chick flick" title. I can kind of see why it may be "more for dudes".

Next segment, I'll be covering a film that turned out to be a way less intense...

Next Time (Apr. 25): Mean Girls

Last Time (Mar. 28): Sixteen Candles

Questions, suggestions, or comments! Drop me a line below!   read

12:36 PM on 03.28.2012

Chick Flix Club: Sixteen Candles

[Chick Flix Club is a bi-weekly series in which I’ll examine a film within the female driven comedy/drama genres, (otherwise colloquially referred to as “chick flicks”) and discuss why I may or may not adore these films despite not being within the intended demographic]

Man, the difference two years can make. Maybe if I viewed Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles in the correct order (Candles released two years prior), I might have had a better appreciation of the two. Sometimes I even wish I could have been a teenager during the eighties (my teenage years ended during the prohibition era), so I could understand every facet of these films.

Initially, this film came off as extremely immature compared to its successor. Through some analysis, I eventually confirmed those first impressions.

How is this film immature? When will I stop comparing it to Pretty in Pink? Does any of this matter? Please read on and find out.

Oh, and spoilers ahoy hoy.

Sixteen Candles follows Samantha (Molly Ringwald) on her sixteenth birthday and the "shenanigans" that accompany it. She has a wacky family (that forgets her birthday), she's self conscious about her body, she's constantly chased around by some "geek" (Anthony Michael Hall), and pines for the sexual affections of one Jake Ryan (Michael Schoeffling).

Unlike Pretty in Pink the audience is well aware of Sam's "quirky" outsider status. Ancillary characters openly discuss how "unnoticed" she is, and she talks about how displeased she is with her body. Oddly enough, her quirky qualities help to make her endearing instead of profoundly annoying. Despite having an insane fondness for an attractive jerk, Sam actually has a lot of strong characteristics.

Sexuality plays a huge role in this film as it equals power. Sam states multiple times in the film that she is abstinent and is "saving herself" for someone special. As long as she controls her sex life, she will hold the power in any relationship. She's so "confident" in her lack of sexual activity that she was willing to give away a pair of panties for a stalker to leave her alone. Although the gesture conveys a sense of lost power, since Sam ultimately made the decision, the struggle remains in her favor.

There's also a very interesting scene between Sam and her father which helps to confirm this as well. Sam's father (interestingly, not her mother) has a late night talk with her discussing her "love life" that eventually ends with him remarking that "...when you do find the right guy, don't let him boss you around". He notes that she needs to realize her self worth and not rely on a man for it. This message unfortunately goes unheeded.

Unfortunately, Sam's power is undermined by other failing aspects of this film. The prevalence of sexuality works both ways. While it strengthens Sam slightly, it weakens her at the same time. There is a need to avoid objectification which hinders growth. The film comes off as immature due to all of the raging hormones. Arguably, since this is also a high school teen comedy, teenagers can "relate" to the actions here. It is hard for me to not feel that the sexual aggression cheapens the film.

There are moments sprinkled throughout that are off-putting if I want to view this as a "chick flick". Sam views a woman naked in the girl's locker room shower and admires her physique, each of the male characters acts like a hormonal gorilla ("the geek" needs Sam's underwear to survive socially), and the object of affection male is only interested in Sam because he found out that she secretly wants to have sex with him.

Normally, John Hughes films have tenets that allow me to enjoy them despite their perceived shortcomings. A lot of his films skewer tropes and allow all characters, especially ancillary, to have their shining moment. While some stuff works, most of it does not. Sam's family had excellent comedic timing, and although deep down their pursuit distresses me, I still liked watching Hall and Cusack play stereotypical "geeks". Then there are questionable decisions that seem dated in retrospect that ruin the film (with crazy asian stereotypes). That's why I wished I was a teenager in the eighties. I should not feel the need to go back in time.

I still cannot stop comparing this film to Pretty in Pink. It's just so darn similar. Everything about is just immature compared to its successor. The stalker" geek" is more aggressive and less emotionally close than Duckie, the male lead is more interested in Sam's body than her "quirky" personality, and Sam's character arc ends the exact same way as Andie's when she squanders her potential strength by giving in to a man. I mean, both characters even share an androgynous namesake.

Do I like this film? I am not entirely sure. My sister does though, so that means something right?

I've grown fond of high school, so I'm going to stick here for a bit. The series is covering two films next month with the same basic premise: "mean girls in high school".

Next Time: (Apr. 11): Heathers

Questions, suggestions, or comments? Drop me a line below!   read

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