Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How to pick a Halloween costume (if you're a chick)

1. Decide what you want to be.
2. Make it sexy.


Here are some examples:

You want to be the great detective Sherlock Holmes:

Now, make it sexy!

Or if you want to be horror monster Freddy Krueger:

Just sex it up!

If you're not sure how risque you want to be, sometimes there's a range:


or Slutty:

As long as you're showing some leg and some cleavage, it doesn't really matter what you are.
Are you a sexy clown? Or sexy Wonder Bread?

Nobody really cares!

Of course, you might offend some prudish feminist-types if you sexualize something like a dead body:

or an infant:

But they just don't know how to have fun! Let's go egg their houses!

All images taken from elsewhere on the internet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Film Studies Matters

I've been thinking about grad school. One of the "nice" things about graduating from college into a recession is that I have a lot of time to think about what I *really* want to do. There are lots of things I could do, lots of things I want to do. But after much thought, if I follow my passion I will go to grad school for film studies.

Although I was (am?) an English major, I mostly took film classes. I did the work I am most proud of in those classes. So why wasn't it readily apparent to me that I would want to continue my education in that field?

Well, it's not very practical. When I tell people I want to go to school for film, the response is usually along the lines of, "Oh, you want to make movies?" And then I explain that actually, no, I don't want to make movies. I want to watch movies, and read about movies, and write about movies. "You want to be a reviewer." No. I want to be a theorist. Theory, by definition, is not practical.

Going to grad school for film studies would prepare me for pretty much one career: academia. This was where my passion hit a snag. I didn't think I had any interest in being a professor. And what interest I did have was more about the perks (summer vacation!) than about a desire to teach. So why spend all that time and money studying film if it's not going to get me anywhere? Well, because I love it. But isn't that selfish? Is there any field more self-serving than film theory? Nobody gives a damn! It's all an academic circle-jerk. I want to do something with my life that matters.

But then, as I was trying to articulate my frustration with Zombieland to a friend, it hit me: studying film DOES matter. What I want to do isn't just analyze and write about film - I want to show people why it is important to do so. I want to teach. (It fits! Life makes sense!)

When I look at the body of work I've produced from my years in college, the issues that come to the fore are very real - how gender is codified on screen, what it means to look at a body, the visceral reactions people have to certain images. If you can't sleep at night because you're too spooked from watching El Orfanato, that's real. If you tear up just thinking about Jack Dawson sinking into the freezing Atlantic Ocean, that's real. If a director in Japan and a director in Germany both use horror-comedy to explore queer issues, teasing out why is no less important than unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity. It matters.

Now to put my theory of why I want to go to grad school into practice and go buy a study book for the GRE.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zombieland wasn't that great.

There. I said it.

I love a good zom-com (that's short for Zombie Comedy), so I wasn't going to pass on seeing Zombieland. I should have.

[Disclaimer: possibler spoilage ahead.]

By my count, Zombieland is the first mainstream US zom-com to come out of the uptrend of zombie movies over the past decade. And it is indeed decidedly mainstream, ie., lackluster. Here are my issues:

- Lack of Conflict
"Zombies are a conflict!" you might say. And you'd be wrong. In any good zombie movie - whether horror or comedy or in between - the zombies are merely a catalyst. The real conflict is between the living. Zombieland didn't have any of that.

- Not That Funny
I can't remember a single good line. Looking through the memorable quotes on imdb, I'm unimpressed.

- Tallahassee
Woody Harrelson's character is problematic. And by that I mean that it's a half-assed characterization. They try and give him some back story and emotional weight, but it falls flat. If you want to see a real zombie-killing badass, take a gander at Guitar Wolf:

Now THAT's a badass.

- US-centric
The opening of the movie says that the United States of America has become the United States of Zombieland. During this voice over, the camera zooms out to show the whole globe. Um, what? If the whole earth is affected, why call it the United States of Zombieland? Why not Planet Zombie?

- Heteronormative
The happy ending is the formation of a nuclear family unit. Yawn.

- Genre Identity Crisis
Any good zom-com recognizes and plays with the conventions of the zombie movie genre. Zombieland recognizes them (to some extent) and doesn't do anything with them. Columbus' zombie survival rules are cute, but more of a nod to the parafilmic zombie fandom than to its predecessors. In terms of self-awareness, Zombieland scores some points for having Bill Murray as himself. But even that seemed out of place. The fact that the poster uses the critical acclaim that it is "the funniest movie since The Hangover" is disappointingly appropriate in that the type of humor was nonspecific to its genre.

I am disappointed in Zombieland. It could have been more, but I'm not surprised that it isn't.

For some *good* zom-coms, check out:
- Wild Zero (2000) - Japanese rock n' roll zombie movie
- Shaun of the Dead (2004) - British zom-rom-com (that's zombie romantic comedy)
- Dance of the Dead (2008) - Indie US teenage zombie movie
- Fido (2006) - Zombie movie meets Douglas Sirk