Monday, June 15, 2009

Cinema Studies – Would You Watch A Chick Flick?

My initial answer is usually “No.” In my head a so-called “chick flick” is fluffy, superficial and it reeks of girly-girl craziness in pursuit of beefcake. Or so I have been told. If I dig a little deeper inside of myself I think “How do I know this?” Well, movie reviewers and critics, mostly male but some female critics have passively taught me the negative confines of a chick flick. So I wonder, do women see movies differently than men?

Cinema Studies is many things from how each element in a film contributes to the creation of an movie experience to the importance of a film against the context of its time. Let me start with an movie that I was guilty of pre-judging when I saw the initial ads and reviews.

The Notebook is based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks.  Had no prior knowledge of Mr. Sparks work.  I might have seen the commercials for the movie and read a few of the reviews. It was enough to cause me to dismiss spending money on the film. That was a mistake. This is the trailer for the film: 

About a year ago I saw the movie on television. Loved it. I couldn’t figure out how I had missed it.  Looking back at the reviews I can see why. I was told that it was sweet, corny and well worth the risk of diabetic shock?  Yowser!

I found that the movie invited me into the past and the present with a love story involving class, wealth, loss and the endurance of love. The same qualities that I found in Casablanca, The Quiet Man and What Dreams May Come. For me, it was the story and the craftsmanship used to tell the story.  If the movie touched me in a positive way but freaked out some of the men that reviewed it does that make it a bad movie?

It could be that, to a professional movie reviewer who has seen a lot of movies, this was a paint by the numbers job. For myself who spent umpteen years watching the Late, Late Show and knows a turkey movie when I see one, I don’t think this was the case. How many good films might have been ignored because they didn’t resonate with the perceptions of the predominately male reviewers? I don’t know. I don’t even know if it is a fair question.

If, on the other hand, watching the movie makes you feel bad about your love life (or lack thereof) is it a good movie because it re-enforces cultural memes about finding true, everlasting love? Shannon at Three Girls Grown Up pulled a double whammy on herself. She read the book and viewed the movie.

So there is the subjective way to view film and an objective way to see a film. For students learning filmmaking there is process you can employ to really understand how the film was crafted. Tendrape at the Communications and Culture Blog reviewed the film looking at how certain decisions were made to invoke mood and experience.  She also looked at how certain mythologies are conveyed in the film:

This movie reinforces attitudes that go along with other popular films today like encouragement for the underdog and living the American Dream. Even though Noah is not working to become a millionaire or something with money which most often is associated with the American Dream, he doesn’t stop trying to get Allie back and eventually all his enduring efforts paid off similar to the dreams goals panning out in the end.

Women who love film/cinema/movies might bring a different perspective on what the see in a movie. They can also shine a light on forgotten or ignored film history. Here are some examples.

Other Cinema Blogs That Inform

Stacia at She Blogged By Night gives a review and critique of BorderTown. Stacia intertwines a synopsis of the movie with how Bette Davis performance in the film enhances or detracts from the presentation.  There is also a mention of the racism directed toward Latinos in the 1930s in the film. Raquelle from Out Of The Past, A Classic Film Blog uses the 1961 movie, The Young Savages to focus in on how Puerto Ricans are portrayed in New York City, 30 years away from BorderTown.

Raquelle has another great post about the dilemma of just focusing on the film or performance or do you allow the actor’s real life to influence your appreciation of the film:

I am far too nosy and inquisitive to not learn about the lives of classic film stars yet is it right for me to dig up the dirt? Should I honor their legendary careers by avoiding their personal lives? If so, why should I? If they did bad things, why should I overlook them? What about those stars who were genuinely good people? Should we avoid them too?

Campaspe at Self-Style Siren evaluates the screen relationships between two great character actors, Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. She point out an interesting aspect of one of their scenes in The Maltese Falcon:

How well these two always managed to flesh out relationships that were somewhat superficial on paper. In The Maltese Falcon their more-than-business association is startlingly plain, but it's all in the playing. When Lorre attacks Greenstreet, yelling "You, you imbecile! You bloated idiot! You stupid fathead!" we hear not just a criminal sidekick but also a frustrated ex-lover.

Lolita’s Classics features a tribute to Animator Lottie Reiniger. Reiniger used black paper and scissors to create her animations and the work is stunning. You can view some of Lottie’s wonderful videos at Lolita’s blog. As Lolita points out:

Even though many people think that the first feature-length animated film was Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), The Adventures of Prince Achmed really is the oldest surviving animated feature film.

Bunny Fontaine loves B-Movies and writes about them at The B-Movie Buffet. But Bunny also grooves on retro movie fashions at her blog The Jaded Pussycat. Check out the 1960s fashions from the Dean Martin film The Silencers and then wonder about the so-called good old days when things were more “innocent.”

Sometimes a film can inspire folks to create their own works of art. Diane at Whidbey Island pays tribute to Hollywood fashion via reconstructing costumes from movies. The  costumes are scaled to doll size. You can see costumes from Imitation of Life, Funny Face and Rear Window.

I end with Norma Desmond’s The Flick Chick review of a contemporary movie, My Life in Ruins.  From what I’ve read this may indeed be a chick flick and not a good one at that:

I can’t remember the last time I saw a film where the plot machinery was so clearly visible and where everyone involved seemed to be proceeding with a “let’s just get this over with” attitude. I wasn’t even expecting that much from this, just light, fluffy summer entertainment but I find it difficult to be entertained by things that never aspire to more than the lowest common denominator.

I think the difference for me is that the plot and structure of the movie is being judged and not the fact that it doesn’t have bombs, gore or transforming robots as an instant negative.

This post originally appeared on BlogHer, where I am a Contributing Editor.

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