"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bitter Film Bites

I ended up watching an oldie on TCM: Panic in Year Zero! with Frankie Avalon in a non-singing, non-Gigety role. It suited my mood because I recently had a very apocalyptic dream. I can't remember it at all anymore, but I do remember the feeling of having it.

I remember a different dream, however, in which I was auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance, and I made it to choreography, but I was wearing big black rain boots, so it was all very awkward. And I didn't want to take the boots off because they were my signature style or something like that. It felt like the end of the world albeit not literally.

Back to the film. It's 1962, and the Russians nuked most of the large cities in the U.S., and Ray Milland and family were fleeing into the countryside (where the radiation can't possibly get them). There was general chaos everywhere as people turned to lawlessness in the face of imminent death. One scene really made me mad. The dad and son go off hunting, and the daughter wants to come. But, of course not, silly. Girls shouldn't be using guns. Go back in the cave to make us lunch. Then the girl is raped by two bad guys, and the dad and son hunt them down and kill them (instant death with one shotgun blast to the belly - and no blood!).

It bugged me that the guys were obviously not very good protectors of this girl, yet they refused to teach her how to use a gun or even let her hold the thing for good measure. She wasn't allowed to protect herself yet was left alone. And it was all her fault for leaving the cave in the first place. She should know her place and do what she's told.

I got the same outraged feeling watching a very different movie: Straw Dogs. About his film, Sam Peckinpah said, "I didn't want you to enjoy the film. I wanted you to look into your own soul." Well alright then. I didn't enjoy the film. Even worse, I watched it with a bunch of guys who did.

The movie's about a mathematician and his pretty wife moving into the country where she gets raped. Apparently people should stay in the city for safety. Anyway, the wimpy math-dude gets clever over the course of the film and defends his home against a whole tribe of drunken rapist types. But that's just the thing - he defends his home, not his wife. The brutes sent him on a wild-goose chase while they buggered his woman, and he's more angry at being duped than outraged at the violation his wife has endured at their hands. His ego rates way higher than his wife's body and soul.

At the end, the nerd is setting up traps in his home. The wife is a bit useless. And my bf at the time turned to me and said, "If that ever happened to us, you better be more help to me than that!" He was right there with the protagonist. And I was right there with the wife. I was incensed that the idiot had no ability to protect his wife, yet she was offered no means to protect herself. It's his job to protect her, and he failed. She paid the price, but that's not what really matters. It's his feelings that matter. And it would have been just as bad for him, I'm guessing, had she successfully protected herself against attack. That would be just as demoralizing.

That potential scenario reminds me of New York, New York. There's a woman who can take charge of her life, and De Niro runs her down every time she tries. Instead of being her supporter, he's her competitor. Thank god he left. He was just a burden - but a charming burden.

The women in these first two movies were just offered up to the men, and the focus wasn't on their pain, but on how their poor men were holding up against some type of theft. In the Panic film, the mother tells Ray that their daughter is more worried about him than about herself. The poor dad is having to cope with his little girl's loss of innocence, and that's where our sympathy is meant to dwell.

And in NY, NY, Francine has to celebrate alone when she finally signs a record deal. Jimmy can't feel joy for her accomplishments because it puts him in second place.  And, apparently, that's what should really matter.


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