So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multi-dimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest."
All of the hoopla about Snowpiercer, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller which features Chris Evans made me want to see it. The synopsis is the world freezes over thanks to a bunch of countries releasing a gas into the atmosphere that freezes the planet and kills everyone on it.
Except for the people on a train line built by a wealthy visionary who saw all of this coming. Akin to class systems, the train has been separated into castes based on the original ticket people purchased, with the folks in the back being refugees who were picked up. In the front? The wealthy benefactor.
The whole thing obviously requires a suspension of disbelief to not ask questions about the different things going on. If you can do that, what you see on the screen recollects the spirit of V for Vendetta mixed with 1984, but the whole thing fits in the pantheon of political dystopian cinema along with other films like Code 46, Gattaca, Serenity and the Canadian television show Continuum.
If you like the intersection of politics with your sci-fi, Snowpiercer will delight you despite its darkness.
Cate Blanchett was as good as advertised in this really well shot, extremely well scripted Woody Allen film. The problem with Blue Jasmine is how sad the whole thing is. From the first frame, you’re not really sure why you should care about these extremely well acted characters and sort of find them insufferable in their own ways.
The best movies make me want to care about the problems of the people on the screen. To care about their lives, their dreams and their wants and to be curious what happens to them when the whole thing is over.
With Blue Jasmine, I found myself wanting to fast-forward to the end because as much as I liked the parts, their sum didn’t add up for me.
It may seem strange for a grown adult in his 30s to care about the newest series on The Disney Channel. But when that series is Girl Meets World, a sequel series to the influential 90s sitcom Boy Meets World…well, it’s still a little strange. But it makes a little bit more sense.
The titular girl is Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard), daughter of Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishel), the original series’ main couple. Riley is a student at John Quincy Adams middle school (get it, BMW fans?), where, of course, her father is a teacher. The pilot focuses on Riley preparing to make her mark on the world, and deciding to do so through her friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter), who isn’t the best of influences. The two lead an anti-homework revolution in Cory’s class, leaving him the challenge of turning their antics into some kind of great life lesson.
Let’s get this out of the way quickly: GMW isn’t bad. There are laughs to spare, Savage and Fishel slide easily back into their roles after so many years away, and the new cast is likable enough. But it’s not subtle, either. Most of the characters are more like caricatures, mugging for the camera and trying to hit laugh line after laugh line. The morals seem forced, and everything is treated as if there’s too much at stake. By placing so much onus right away on Riley trying to make the world “hers,” for instance, they creators create a clumsy handoff between the two series, assuming that familiarity with the older cast will allow them to hit the ground running. A more gradual start may have benefitted both the show and its audience.
Maybe this is a problem with pilots, though, right? The first show is just a proof of concept. So many shows get much better after their first outing. And maybe this will hold true for GMW, and it will rise above average. For comparison’s sake, though, let’s look at the 1993 Boy Meets World pilot, in which Cory is caught listening to a baseball game during class and must serve detention with Mr. Feeney (Will Daniels). From the beginning, the show is recognizable as the classic it became. There are some elements in this episode that aren’t part of the series - a third friend in the Cory-Shawn dynamic, no Minkus, no Topanga - but what is there from the beginning is a balance of wit and heart. Cory is still wacky, but he’s balanced out by the realistic parents and teachers around him.
Whether GMW’s failure to reach this balance is just a momentary hiccup or a symptom of something that’s changed in the creator’s minds or the television landscape in general remains to be seen. I have the patience to find out. I hope the show has enough respect for its viewers to show a little of the same in its writing. Girl Meets World airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m.
Meet Naina: Old, dried up med student who is just plain fed up
I was going to review this, but there’s no way that I can really beat the Bollywood Recaps version of it. It’s ridiculous in all of the ways you’d expect a Bollywood flick to be, but it has its moments. You should follow them stat.
It’s a legit romcom though, so if you’re looking for such fare, it’s probably right up your alley. It starts off a bit slow and I tend to skip past most of the dance routines when I watch Bollywood (after a few minutes, there are some exceptions like in Band Baaja Baaraat where I loved them all) but…it has all of the ups & downs of your favorite movies without being remotely boring as any of them.
Lukas Moodysson’s film about three 8th grade girls from Sweden in the 80s who start a band is pretty damn hilarious. The dings against “We Are The Best” is that it’s not exactly linear, there’s no real “story” just a lot of different parts that make it feel almost like a few episodes of a sitcom that culminates with something hilarious rather than a real movie.
All of these criticisms aren’t too unfounded. That being said, it warms up pretty fast and once you’re following it, you sort of want to see what happens with these three quirky girls. It’s really funny if you’ve spent any time around kids at the age where they’re just starting to become more aware of the world, their views shifting and parents who in the Scandinavian tradition are a lot more tolerant than American parents of pretty much everything.
I’m not sure if Moodysson saw “A Swedish Love Story (1970)" but a lot of this film like a far more upbeat love letter to that film in parts. It’s told from the perspective of the kids, not the perspective of the adults and I thought that made it a lot more enjoyable to watch.
We Are The Best is cute but flawed. Still, if you’re looking for something entertaining to watch for 90 minutes, enjoy music and want a bit of an 80s throwback feel, you can do worse than this film.
Note it’s in Swedish but there are subtitles and I rented it via iTunes.