Black Rock (2012) – a little feminist analysis for you guys

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I spent a better part of my time in school analyzing movies and in this instance, I’m going to go ahead and do it now. And yeah, there might be spoilers. Then again, this movie is kind of predictable. Please to enjoy.

Black Rock, a movie written and directed by a woman – god damn yes! – might just be a movie. It might just be Deliverance starring women as the victims instead of men. It definitely might be and if it is, fine. That’s fine. Some movies are that and not all movies have to be deep and film-y and chock full of metaphors and symbolism. But for this review? We’re going to pretend that it is deep and film-y and chock full of metaphors and symbolism.

The story is about three women who, deep down, are best friends but have some rocky history get together to go camping for a few days. Once they get there, they happen across three guys – one of whom went to the same high school (I think) as the girls. Drinks are had and one of the women starts flirting with said guy. They sneak out into the woods to fool around. Meanwhile, the other two guys tell the other two girls about how they were all in the military together.

The “couple” in the woods are making out but the woman, Abby, decides she doesn’t want to take it any further and says “NO.” And then the guy shoves her down and gets ready to rape her. After he punches her twice, he says “You wanna have fun? You wanna get fucked tonight?!” To save herself from being raped, she grabs a rock and hits him in the head. Oops, he dies.

Everyone else back at the campsite hears Abby yell and they run to her. The women are shaken and trying to calm Abby down, meanwhile the guys realize their friend is dead and start saying shit like “Get your gun,” and then getting said gun and pointing it at the women. The women run away.

And so begins the hunt.

Everyone sees this as just being another Deliverance. Some reviews from Rotten Tomatoes have this to say:

– “It feels amateurish, as though it was made up as they went along. The violence – because that’s what most of the action consists of – feels phony.”

– “The concept is there, but a movie like this needs a much more polished execution that “Black Rock” gets.”

– “A soundtrack of churning rock songs by the Kills is as close as this misfire gets to authentic grrrl power, borrowed as it is”

The way I see it is that Katie Aselton sought to make a movie that looked at gender as well as victim blame and being a survivor. I saw a lot of this movie as being about the sexual dynamic between men and women and rape culture.

I hate that for some people, the violence isn’t real enough. That it isn’t polished enough. That it just isn’t really grrrl power. (I really don’t think Kathleen Hanna would be a fan of such a nonsense comment.)

FUCK. THAT. NOISE. This movie is simple and honest. The men – or rather, soldiers – represent the weird focus on hyper-masculinity (which I think is also a major point of this movie. Guys also have a right to be irritated by gender dynamics. I think Aselton aims to bring that up but of course, people are just like “Why you gotta hate men so much?! Why can’t you be naked all the time?! Why can’t you love men without question and then be naked around us?!”) and the women act as survivors of sexual offenses. It isn’t meant to be pretty or polished. It’s meant to just be. Is there a way to make rape sound better or worse? Not really. It’s fucked up and it is what it is.

Right after Abby accidentally kills the guy, the women try to reason with the now incensed men:

Sarah: Listen, what happened to Henry was a terrible –
Derek: Shut up.
Sarah: – terrible fuckin’ mistake, okay? It was an accident. Abby is sorry. She is sorry. But please, understand that what she did was protecting herself. Can you get that? She thought that he was going to rape her. Can you understand that? Can you get that?
Derek: Here’s what I get. Your fucking slut friend lures my buddy up into the woods, flirting with him all night, smashes his fuckin’ head in with a rock. That’s what I understand.

Aw, look at all that victim blame. Unfortunately, shit like that actually happens.

I made the mistake of checking out the IMDB message boards. Here’s what I found:

Should have premiered on Lifetime
It is right up that network’s alley.

1. Men portrayed as despicable – Check
2. Women fight back against despicable men – Check
3. Cast is made up of C-list, not very attractive (therefore relatable to target audience) women – Check

[God forbid a television network aimed toward women make a few movies about how women can overcome terrible situations involving the men in their lives. It also makes Drop Dead Diva and Army Wives and broadcasts Frasier and Unsolved Mysteries. And really? Commenting on the attractiveness of the stars as well as the “target audience”?]

dat body heat scene!
Complain about the flick as much as you want… You’re lying to yourself if you to see them make-out.

[Yeah brah, after they got out of the frigid water they had to swim in to escape their assailants, I was like “Please kiss! Oh, yeah, take your clothes off and press your icy blue skin against each other.”]

The Rape Sequence Made Me Hard
It was fun to watch. Let the guys have some fun.
—> It’s a shame he died raping the ugliest of the bunch. Such is life.

[Can’t.]

Any bush in this?
I sure hope so.

[That’s what you’re hoping to get out of this movie? You know, there’s this thing called porn. I think it has what you’re looking for.]

Anyone that has seen this film, I have a question
How much does lake Bell show? Is it true that it is topless and ass?

[The main interest of everyone going to see the movie. Will someone get naked?!]

I’m not going to say anything about the involuntary reactions that people have to seeing someone in the nude. The body does what it does and that’s that. But I will say something about people actively saying shit about how rape scenes turned them on and actively seeking out a movie whose entire plot hinges on a woman fighting back against her about-to-be rapist to see a little TnA.

It’s shit like this – this unrelenting focus and commentary and entitlement to critique women. To decide their worth and value. To place some sort of price on a woman. To basically say, “Eh, yeah I guess I’d rape her. I mean, I don’t think I’d have sex with her willingly – on her part. But if she was saying ‘no?’ Yeah, I’d probably fuck her.” Has the male gaze worked its way into DNA make-up?

It’s midnight. I don’t know what this review has turned into. This ended up being more of a review of critics/reviewers than a review of the movie. It just rubs me the wrong way when people look at a movie like this – whether it’s meant to be this feminist movie or just a horror/thriller starring women – and have some ass backwards opinions and thoughts and logic.

I don’t know. I liked the movie. Was it the most perfect film ever? No. But the fact that a woman made a movie that starred women and passed The Bechdel test and had something to say? I can get down with that. Oh, and the soundtrack features The Kills! Nice!

**** stars

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Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) – with more spoilers than a Fast & Furious movie!

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Sure, Oz the Great and Powerful was fun to look at and had its couple of “haha” moments, but ultimately, I was totally unimpressed by Sam Raimi’s Oz.

As someone who grew up loving all things Oz – even the freak party Return to Oz movie (Jack Pumpkinhead and the Wheelers are some of my favorite characters) – I figured that this movie wouldn’t live up to anything else Oz related. And it didn’t.

Frank L. Baum’s books are hailed as being the first real example of a feminist hero in literature. You can read a lot more about this elsewhere, because I’m not trying to write an essay right now. Either way, there were women abound – good women, bad women, in-between women – and the books would have easily passed The Bechdel Test. Solid.

But this Oz? Please. Sure, it was a unique take on the story but really? The women in this movie could not have been any…less. This simplistic idea of good=beautiful and evil=ugly is so heavy-handed in this movie.

THEODORA: Ah, the old adage of “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” come to life. She gets the dazzling entrance, entering the frame front and center, with a slow-motion walk where we’re all supposed to “ooh” and “aah” over her. And of course, Oz acts like the womanizer he is and sweeps this (fucking powerful) witch off her feet with a couple of gestures that should hardly seem like magic to a witch.

When homegirl gets a little too serious to fast – saying some stuff about being his queen and spending a lifetime together – he wigs out. So, he’s an asshole that we’re meant to like because hey, he just hadn’t found the right girl to not be an asshole to. But she just screams “CRAZY ATTACHED GIRLFRIEND” and I think we all already know where this story is going.

EVEANORA: The good/beautiful woman that’s clearly cloaking her evil/ugly ways. Come on, we could see that shit from a mile away. She has an ominous entrance where she’s just a silhouette and she has a manic energy about her. She knows that her sister, Theodora, is into Oz and when she realizes Oz is going to end up on the good side, she turns Theodora against him. She tells Theodora Oz was all over her and he was into her, so Theodora runs off crying before turning full on evil/ugly – green, pointy chin, and big nose. That’s right, this douchebag drove her to being the most powerful, evil witch Oz has ever known.

GLINDA: Beautiful and good. Same kind of god damn reveal that Theodora got. Pulls her hood down and shows off her blonde hair and fair skin. And she’s good through and through so she maintains that beauty for the duration of the movie. And she’s powerful. She has a big shield around her “kingdom” and her people bow at her feet but they love her. She is benevolent. She is capable.

And yet, Oz is the big savior. This guy who cons audiences and cons women. He appears to commit adultery with married women. He’s greedy. Oh, sure, at the end of the day he does the right thing but for 90% of the movie he’s an asshole and the development of him realizing the error of his ways and deciding to do the right thing comes from out of nowhere.

So, all of these powerful women are reduced to nothing by this asshole; Eveanora is scared away by him, Glinda is entranced/in love, and Theodora is spurned by him, muttering “I may not be able to kill you, but I can kill the one you love! I hate you,” like a girlfriend who’s been unceremoniously dumped.

Really? This is the movie they chose to present to people? Moreover, Frank L. Baum – the author of the Oz series – firmly believed there should not be romance in children’s books. God forbid two attractive characters work together to do something great and high five at the end rather than kissing dramatically.

I know it was just a movie and one primarily meant for kids or whatever, but c’mon. Look at the obvious sexualization of those witches!

The original image of the Wicked Witch (of the West) vs supermodel wicked witch. C'mon son!

The original image of the Wicked Witch (of the West) vs supermodel wicked witch. C’mon son!

And God, Oz is still such an asshole at the end. He gives everyone gifts and when it comes Glinda’s turn this is what happens:

Oz: I saved the best for last. For you, a sight envied by all and seen by none. You’ll be astounded by what you find behind the curtain. (They go behind the curtain and Oz shuts it with a satisfied grin. Then they’re standing unnecessarily close, face to face.)
Glinda: Oh my! It’s very tight in here.
Oz: It’s nice, isn’t it?
Glinda: I know what you’re up to wizard.
Oz: What? I’m just giving you a tour. And I want to thank you. For opening my eyes.
Glinda: And what do you see?
Oz: That I have everything I ever wanted.
Glinda: For the record, I knew you had it in you all along.
Oz: Greatness.
Glinda: No. Better than that – goodness.

And then they mack. Something about that shit rubs me the wrong way. One, he’s such a creepy prick – knowing full well that he intends on getting handsy with her and referring to it as “saving the best for last.” Fuck you, Oz. And then! He’s like “ha ha! I’m great! I’m the greatest! I’m amaaaazing!” when really she was just trying to tell him he’s a good guy.

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Conclusion: Oz is a dick.

* star

94: Snow White and the Huntsman (in which I analyze)

Snow White & the Huntsman – June 1, 2012
Starring: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth
Written by: Evan Daughterty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini
Directed by: Rupert Sanders

The plot: “In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.” – IMDB

My thoughts: I’ll talk about the good stuff before I just ramble on and on about what I didn’t like about the movie.

1. Charlize was badass and beautiful and over-the-top (which I liked). Her costumes were a-maaah-zing.
2. Special effects were really cool. It was absolutely a movie I liked watching. It was visually stimulating. A+ on all that.
3. They made it gritty and that was cool. It was kind of “Game of Thrones”-esque inside the castle. I like that they weren’t afraid to “go there” as it were.

So let’s get down to it. If you’ve read even a few of my blog posts, you’ll probably have noticed that I tend to give movies the ol’ feminist eye when I watch them and I went into the movie thinking “Please be feminist, please be feminist” because it had such an opportunity to make it that way. And it just…didn’t. Not really.

Some people see KStew’s acting as being subtle, quiet, deep, whatever. Other people see her as being boring as shit and having the most annoying ticks/acting habits ever. I fall into the latter category. So yes, I did not read her as having a “quiet strength,” I saw her as being sulky and never once smiling and having zero passion about anything.

This take on Snow White gives the illusion of feminism. It says, “Look! Here’s this totally atypically beautiful girl (not at all), who is gentle (boring), but possessing an inner-strength (she just wants her kingdom back), and she doesn’t need to end up with a guy (the movie is called Snow White & the Huntsman and that lingering look at the end? Try and tell me that we’re not lead to believe that they end up together off-screen. Because they do).” Now let’s break this shit down:

BEAUTY

Great value is still placed on beauty in this movie, but it’s only okay if you’re just naturally beautiful. If you suck it out of anyone, then you shouldn’t be beautiful. There are some women in the movie who have given themselves (let’s be honest, minimal) scars on their faces and suddenly they’re not considered beautiful? What message is this sending? And why must “fair” hold the connotation of “beauty, attractiveness” when the twist could be that it means “just”? This movie could have done so much – had a truly normal-looking girl play the lead and give it a message of beauty only being skin deep and that strong character and will is what makes someone beautiful and worthy of the throne.

VIRTUE

The symbolism in Snow White was just about as obvious as the symbolism in The Chronicles of Narnia. In the movie, Snow White is said “to be life itself” and by that they mean she’s pure and by that they mean she is virginal – she is what a woman is meant to be. And it’s sooo obvious what they mean. She only rides white horses (who just appear when she needs them and die for her, no big deal), The Great Stag or whatever (also white) only appears for her and come on, that right there is a God-like figure. When she comes back to life, she is wearing a simple white dress, not unlike Christ and in the typical color of purity – White. She dies eating an apple (naturally poisonous because women are always fucking up by eating apples) and her name is SNOW WHITE. And she’s been trapped in a tower all her life so she’s hardly even been looked at by a man, let alone any human.

MASCULINITY

None. She has no masculinity in this movie. And I’m not saying she needs to, but it’s odd that all of her strengths are distinctly feminine. She connects with animals, she saves people, she cries, men fawn over her, and so on and so forth. Sure, she suits up and goes into battle but does not know how to fight. She is a damsel in distress for a large majority of the movie. When she saves the Huntsman from a troll, she does so with a scream and a calming energy or whatever. So yes, her femininity is her strength, awesome. But the fact that all she has is femininity is gendering her in an odd way.

WOMEN FIGHTING WITH WOMEN

Man, why are these stories about women being terrible to and having issues with other women? We already have men trying to bring us down, why do we have to go after each other? If anything, Ravenna’s revenge plan seems skewed. She hates men who use her for her beauty so she becomes more beautiful and kills other beautiful girls who probably also suffer the same fate that she did/would have? You think she’d be rounding up all the women trying to take down all the men but then this would be a review about all the misandry in the movie. The point is, the core of this story is about one woman hating another woman – not doing a damn thing for a plight, ladies! And over who’s hotter of all things.

Man, I don’t even know. I wanted it to be feminist, to truly have a strong female warrior lead who could blur the line between masculine and feminine and change the idea that “beauty wins” because that isn’t the right message.

Critics are right in calling it a darker fairy tale because it is dark. It’s dark to let young girls or impressionable women leave a theater with this belief that beauty+goodness=GOOD and beauty+evil=BAD because that’s not the point. GOODNESS=GOOD, EVIL=BAD. Beauty has nothing to do with it. God damn Hollywood, just perpetuating the myths of beauty and purity, always pitting woman against woman. How you gonna do us like that?

Stars: 2/5 (1 for visuals, 1 for Charlize)