May 2013 Archives

I have been spending a lot of time in the past year pondering modern American society's current constructions of masculinity and femininity. The "LEGO for girls" curfuffle kicked it into high gear for me.

JeongMee Yoon's The Pink and Blue Projects "explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism." Yoon visited with young boys and girls (mostly American and South Korean) in their homes, and photographed them among all of their pink or blue belongings. The resulting photographs were highly saturated fields of pink for the girls and blue for the boys. The effect of everything gathered together in one place was startling, and perhaps a little unnerving.

Interestingly, I came across this project while I was reading Julia Serano's Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity. As is usual for me and non-fiction books, it was a slow read, but it was a good read. Serano has very interesting and insightful things to say on femininity, society, and misogyny. It is generally considered acceptable and even cute for girls and women to do, wear, and enjoy "boy" things, but shameful and wrong for boys and men to do, ear, or enjoy "girl" things. No one looks twice at a woman in pants, even a suit, but a male in a dress is comic. This is because our society generally sees masculine things as good and strong, while feminine thing are silly and weak, so it makes sense to want the masculine things, even if you are female. But for a male person to seek out the feminine is to downgrade.

On a personal note, this was something I struggled with a few years ago. I was seeking out a new car seat. I found the brand and style that I wanted, but it was pretty expensive. There was one seat in that model that was significantly less expensive that the rest: it was pink. I was buying the seat to use with a boy child. I knew that the seat would work as well whether it was black or blue or red or pink. I knew that the savings was not insignificant. I knew that pink being for girls only was an artificial construct. Yet I found that I couldn't get past these things and choose the pink carseat. I was annoyed and resentful at this fact, and wanted to force myself past this hang-up. And still, I ended up with the red seat. It was a serious "what the hell?" moment.

How strong do you have to be to get past the "pink for girls"? Why on earth should you have to be strong to get past "pink is for girls"? And, given the strength that it takes to push past this stupid color taboo, why is pink still seen as weak?

The world, it makes very little sense sometimes.



Computer Chess

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Computer Chess started our Sunday morning Film Fest viewing.

While I knew that it was a mockumentary, when the film began, I thought they were using archival footage to introduce the story. But nope. The whole thing was shot on vintage Sony AVC 3260 tube-powered videocameras which, along with the excellent hair, costumes, and props, give it an "archival footage" look. It's an amazing effect.

The cast seemed like it was full of vaguely familiar faces, yet on perusal I discovered that Wiley Wiggins was the only actual familiar face.

Overall, I really loved this movie. It was awkward and hilarious and both surreal and very real. That it, I really loved it until the last twenty minutes or so, at which point it felt like it totally went off the rails. As has been my opinion on a number of other films, I think a bit more editing throughout would have made for a much stronger film. There were a few scenes that went on too long, or could have been eliminated entirely. Yet, even with it's flaws, I was happy to have seen it, and might watch it again if the opportunity came around. (I wouldn't necessarily seek it out.)



Wonderland, by Kristy Mitchell

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Kristy Mitchell's Wonderland series is one of the most amazing bits of photography I have come across. On their own, many of the photos would be quite at home amid the pages of a high-end fashion magazine. However, unlike the elaborate photo spreads that grace those expensive pages, these are a labor of love, rather than the product of a giant marketing budget. I would recommend reading the story of the project and checking out the behind the scenes photos. Seriously, her gallery will blow you away.

Approved for Adoption

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Approved for Adoption was our first Saturday night selection. It was preceded by a short called Blood Brothers.

Blood Brothers was...almost good, in a frustrating way. The stories are stories that need to be told and heard. The camerawork was decent in a beginner way. It really, really made me long for summertime in rural Wisconsin. I can tell that Jonathan Quam has great potential as a filmmaker. This film, however, could have used tighter editing to really make the narratives come through. 30 minutes was definitely not too long, but the way the 30 minutes was used was not the best. Hence, almost good in a frustrating way. I do look forward to seeing more work by Mr. Quam in future festivals.

Approved for Adoption (Couleur de peau: Miel) was the first film of the festival weekend that got a 5 on my audience ballot. It was amazingly well done. Jung used a combination of animation, old family films from Belgium the 70s, and modern footage from his first visit to South Korea since his early childhood. The result was a powerful and complex tale of growing up adopted across cultures, the search for identity, and the meaning of family.

There was a moment, near the end of the film, when I found myself profoundly sad at something that happened and was quietly wiping away tears. Glanced to the right: tears were being dabbed. Glanced to the left: same thing. Somewhere behind me, I could hear sniffling. I am usually at least mildly embarrassed when I find myself crying at a movie, but for this I felt like I was in pretty good company, since most of the people around me were doing so, too. Also, it wasn't a particularly manipulative moment, as far as filmmaking goes. I always feel a little angry when I'm crying at something that feels like "ha ha, *this* will have them bawling". This was honestly sad, but not overstated or cynically overplayed.

Couleur de peau: Miel was a beautiful piece of storytelling, and I would watch it again, if given the opportunity.



Little Red

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Our second Friday Saturday night film was Little Red, a Wisconsin's Own entry.

The film started out in Milwaukee, with some very familiar sights for me. However, it quickly moved to Florida, where 11 year-old Ruth..."Red" has run away for a secret vacation to enjoy the beaches of Daytona and then see the wild horses of Cumberland Island. While there (in fact, from before her flight even leaves Milwaukee) she catches the eye of creepy Lou (played by Mark Metcalf, best known to me as "The Master" from season one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) who stalks her for the rest of the movie.

It. Was. So. Uncomfortable. Even when nothing was actually happening, I was gripping the arms of my chair going "oh no, oh no, oh no..." You know what happens in Little Red Riding Hood: whether she gets rescued at the end or not, someone has usually been eaten by the wolf first. And you know how this kind of thing plays out in real life, so waves of dread where washing over me the whole time.

Lucky for Red, she is befriended by another, slightly older, local surfer girl named Kayla. Kayla joins her on her quest for Cumberland Island, and helps her to dodge Lou. The camaraderie between the two girls is believable and sweet, and provided a few moments of respite from the tension, here and there.

Metcalf's Lou is quite the wolf, and the way he played it made my skin crawl. Again, even when nothing was actually really happening yet, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when things were, I wanted to hit him with a frying pan.

The colors of the Florida scenes were wonderfully saturated. Of *course* just about everything Red owned was, well, red. Several scenes in particular made me want to be there in person, to see the ocean and the Spanish Moss.

Trying to avoid spoilers, but the ending was one that I really didn't seem coming, and yet it was an ending the satisfied me.

It was an interesting choice to watch immediately after 7 Cajas, as I was still carrying around the tension from that first film. As a pair, it did not give us the most uplifting night of cinema ever, but it certainly kept us at the edge of our seats.

It was paired at the start with a very short film called The Evilest of Sorcerers, which also started Metcalf, and which was darkly hilarious. It made for a nice amuse-bouche.



Flimmer (Flicker)

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Our second Saturday night film was the Swedish film Flimmer (which was translated to "Flicker" in English). It was very, very Swedish, and also quite darkly (sometimes literally) hilarious.

There were a number of moments in the film when things were balanced on the knife-edge between dark comedy and tragedy, and it would only take the slightest breath to cause the while thing to plunge into deeply sad territory. And yet, it maintained that balance to the very end.

Every time the "what, no?!" was about to become too much, the audience (including myself) would dissolve into a cascade of laughter at some bit of absurdity on the screen. While it wasn't exactly a film I would want to see again, it was definitely a film I was glad I had seen.



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