AWFJ Women On Film – The Week In Women, September 25, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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Cooties alert for the Oscars! Plus: female chauvinist pigs and creepy old guys drooling over young women (and somehow forgetting to drool over young men).

OSCAR COOTIES! Variety’s Peter Bart seems to think that this year’s Oscar race is shaping up to be some sort of catfight between Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow:

Both “Hurt Locker” and “Bright Star” are, in a sense, classic art films and could benefit richly if they were showered with nominations. As reluctant spokepersons for their own work, both Bigelow and Campion understand the importance of the game and also its perils.

The films, like their filmmakers, are startlingly different – Campion’s is self-consciously literary, Bigelow’s is devastatingly realistic. Campion’s distributor is the wily Bob Berney, whose company is new to the game. Bigelow’s picture was picked up by Summit, which hit the jackpot with “Twilight” and has money to spend, if it wants to.

On the circuit, Bigelow fascinates audiences, Campion is more stand-offish. They don’t know each other and don’t want to compete. But their paths will keep crossing as the Oscar season progresses and there’s no way of handicapping the results at this early point.

Movies by men will also be competing for nominations. I wonder when Bart will cover that side of the equation. I mean, my goodness, what will the geeky, aggressive Quentin Tarantino do when encounters the bookish, quiet Steven Soderbergh? Are Joel and Ethan Coen worried about what to say to Spike Jonze at parties? What will any of them do about Peter Jackson?

I wonder if Bart realizes that Bigelow and Campion will be talking to the boys, too. I hope they all have their cootie vaccinations up to date, or it could really get ugly.

WHAT A GIRL LIKES. Feminism doesn’t mean women must universally love anything women do, and I’m tired of the suggestion that it does. In an unbylined piece at Girldrive, it is suggested that female film critics who don’t like Jennifer’s Body simply don’t get it:

[T]his movie has some refreshing, feministy elements to it…and some annoying parts, too, like the implication that Jennifer needs to literally “feed” off guys in order to stay beautiful, glowing, and healthy. But fuck if I’m going to let feminists tear Diablo Cody to shreds over something like this movie. I find this to be a particularly annoying case of unproductive feminist navelgazing. Horror films are supposed to be built on fantasy–sexual fantasy, murderous fantasy, and everything in between. They’re often silly and usually throwaway when evaluated in the context of a serious screenwriter’s career. I have to agree with Cody when she says that “we don’t all have to be the model woman–what we need is to be more visible.” And I’m not implying that women should get off easy–just that they shouldn’t be written off after 31 years on earth and a meager two screenplays. Maybe Cody just wanted to have some campy, squeal-inducing fun. I’d argue that she succeeded, without exploiting young women or killing them off in rapid succession. Considering the sizeable chick carnage of other recent teen girl horror movies, that’s actually pretty radical.

As if anything that some women, such as this unnamed author, consider feminist must actually be feminist, or — worse — that just because something is feminist it must be good. It’s entirely possible — and this is my position on the film — that Jennifer’s Body is feminist in theme, but it still sucks as a story. And for me, or any feminist, to suggest that I must support any movie, no matter how good or bad it is, merely because women made it, is ridiculous.

NUDITY CRUDITY. This is what the New York Post considers fodder for a column by its film critic, V.A Musetto: where to see Abbie Cornish naked if you’re pissed off that she remains fully clothed in Bright Star:

If you just have to see the 27-year-old farmer’s daughter in the altogether, you’ll have to turn to her 2004 screen debut, Cate Shortland’s “Somersault,” which is available on DVD and the Sundance Channel.

In the opening scene, we find Cornish’s 16-year-old Australian lass, Heidi, in bed with her mother’s tattooed, layabout boyfriend.

Later, another man, Joe — who has been sleeping with Heidi — catches her nude in her apartment with two guys she picked up in a bar. When Joe asks why she brought them home, she answers honestly: “I didn’t want to be alone.”

It’s generous of him to point out precisely which scenes one must flip to, though perhaps he could have offered timecodes, so we wouldn’t waste any tedious time with the rest of the movie in which Cornish remains clothed.

Bonus points for the fetishistic characterization of Cornish as a “farmer’s daughter.”

I look forward to Musetto’s column on which movies feature Cornish’s Bright Star costar Ben Wishaw in the nude, and I fully expect him to mention that Wishaw has a twin brother, for all those Wishaw fangirls who harbor fantasies in that direction.

OPENING THIS WEEK. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, from professional asshole Tucker Max, is quite clearly designed to rile up feminists, what with its juvenile depictions of precisely the same kind of misogyny women have been hearing all their lives. Remember this: Max is like a toddler screaming naughty words in public for the reaction he’ll get in response. The best thing to do is simply to ignore him.

For the full rundown of movies by and about women opening this week, see the AWFJ’s regular listing.

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her AWFJ.org archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).