Thursday, May 19, 2016

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this week.

SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE (1960)
Mamie Van Doren as a professor with multiple degrees, a keen mind and a photographic memory who speaks 18 languages, but gosh darn it, needs to learn that there's just no place in the faculty for a body like that. So, yeah, that kind of "tee hee charming" misogyny that these kinds of B pictures excel at. Lots of elements--sexy co-eds, guys in their forties playing star university sportsmen, a smoking chimpanzee who uses a typewriter, Brigitte Bardot's sister, an honest-to-goodness robot from the World's Fair, "funny" gangsters, a lounge, hypnotism, rockabilly, Jackie Coogan--in search of being used well or at least in a way that's remotely fun. Tedious, but Mamie's beautiful. Not enough to make up for the tedium, but... well, it ends, eventually. *1/2

MINIONS (2015)
Light and fluffy, but charming and delightful prequel to Despicable Me. It's basically an origin for the Minions, appearing at the dawn of the Earth and settling into 1968 London when they think they've found the perfect villain to serve. (Excellent soundtrack.) I dug it. ***1/2

GOOSEBUMPS (2015)
I have no experience with the books or the TV show (probably because I was in high school when both appeared; I did work in a bookstore when they were at the height of their popularity, though, which was occasionally aggravating), but I found the movie very cute. The new kid in town wants to go to the high school dance with the neighbor girl, but her father (Jack Black) wants her to stay away. The father, it turns out, is Goosebumps author RL Stine, and on the night of the dance, all of his creations come to life and terrorize the town. Cute premise, and I enjoyed the movie; it has the silly energy of movies like The Monster Squad or Gremlins or Jumanji. I found Black's very arch performance funny; he's playing Stine as though he's John Carradine. ***

CONFIRMATION (2016)
A docudrama about the confirmation hearings that put Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. Kerry Washington plays Professor Anita Hill, the woman who accused Thomas of past sexual harassment and was vilified in the press. I remember it all happening; it was sort of an eye-opener for me (I was 15 and still being taught about the sanctity of the US government in school). That was a weird time to be a teenager, because of the first explosion of political correctness as both real concern and idiotic punchline. Coming of age in a time of Camille Paglia, Bill Clinton, and OJ Simpson was really, really bizarre. I can't speak to the accuracy of the movie (online opinions vary wildly, depending on your political leanings), but Clarence Thomas is pretty awful, George Bush was a garbage president, and most of the senators involved in the confirmation hearings have really never stopped being scummy or ineffectual. I think the movie raises an important point about how the establishment will protect its own just to save face, and how often we seem to value shaping the narratives of others to fit our own. There's a lot being said here about the way black women are silenced in America that's important. Kerry Washington and Jeffrey Wright are both very good, but it can be an at-times frustrating movie to watch. It doesn't help that I'm already so damn disillusioned with the government because of these primaries... ***1/2

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