December 2015 Media Round-up (Movies, Part 1)

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Legend (2015)

My expectations for this were perhaps too high, but it’s hard not to have high expectations for double gangster Tom Hardys in a British period drama with gay content (more on that later), you know? It’s not like Legend is even unpleasant or boring or anything; it’s just a pretty generic mob movie, which would have been fucking awesome when I was 15, but is somewhat less exciting at this point. Tom Hardy is always great, so there is that, although some of his speech (and other characters’) is borderline incoherent.

Definitely a weird movie to watch in the midst of one’s own major sibling issues, where both parties probably think of themselves as the (calm, reasonable, logical) Reggie Kray to the other’s (irrational, emotional, unstable) Ronnie Kray. There was a very effective moment near the end, after Reggie stabs the guy at the party, when Ronnie asks him why and Reggie clasps his face and whispers “Because I can’t kill you.” Such solid pay off to all of the “Because he’s my bruvver” moments that felt a bit too on-the-nose or something—I mean, not that this one wasn’t, but it worked despite that.

Mostly, though, Legend  made me think about the Gangster Wife Paradox:

When we watch gangster movies, we want to root for the gangster to keep doing cool gangster shit—threatening people, doing illegal shit whilst successfully evading the law, etc.

And when gangster movies have a romantic plotline, it typically involves the female love interest wanting the gangster to go straight—which is, like, valid, because it’s probably not great to constantly be in fear of your lover’s safety/whether he’ll get murdered or sent to prison, your own safety (is a rival gang going to try to use you as leverage?), your future children’s safety, etc. The gangster then has to choose between the woman and the life of crime, and that’s going to be a whole Thing.

But since the rest of the movie tends to be spent showing what a fucking badass the gangster is—gangster movies tend to be in the genre of competence porn, I think—and not that much time is spent developing the love interest as anything other than a pretty face, the audience is kind of left hating the love interest for being a wet blanket. This could perhaps be avoided if she were given any character beats other than “I love you so much, but I can’t live like this!” but lol like that’s ever going to happen, given the target demographic of the genre. So it often places us, the audience, in this weird, somewhat misogynist and amoral bind, and in general, I assume that’s not at all the movie’s intention.

The Godfather and especially The Godfather II suffered from this, and Legend does as well. It’s probably worse in Legend, though, since the whole movie has a voice-over narration delivered by Frances, Reggie Kray’s wife. (And I mean, the rest of the movie is not like Godfather-level quality to make up for this). And yet, despite the voice-over, we don’t really get to know who she is as a person—the voice-over comes across as pretty objective, other than occasionally referring to Reggie as “my beloved Reggie.” According to her brother, she’s “fragile,” whatever the fuck that means, but we don’t really see any of that in the movie until closer to the end when she starts popping pills and reveals that, oh yeah, this was a problem for her in the past. But it’s not totally clear what there is to the Frances/Reggie relationship other than physical attraction—and frankly, I’m only assuming that because Tom Hardy and Emily Browning are very attractive people, and most of the scenes of them together that are not her asking him to go straight are of them making out. There’s some sense that she’s into him to piss off her mom, but because she doesn’t come across as rebellious in any other way, that’s just not enough. Ultimately, one has to wonder: what’s keeping you in this relationship if you have such issues with his occupation?

 


Pride (2014)

This is essentially the same movie as Kinky Boots and that’s fine. As maudlin as it can get, I am a sucker for the “two marginalized groups get over their prejudices and work together to fight against a system that’s let them both down” concept. Yeah, this wasn’t the most subtle or nuanced script ever, but fuck it, I definitely cried and definitely felt the emotional impact of the miners marching in the pride parade at the end (and the real-life basis makes that even more emotional).

So not, like, a Great Film, but a pleasant (and educational!) way to spend two hours, certainly.


Worried About the Boy (2010)

Kind of whatever. Probably would have been good to have any idea who Boy George was beforehand; it turns out I am actually semi-familiar with Culture Club—well, very familiar with the “war war is stupid and people are stupid” song and not at all familiar with anything else they’ve done—but did not realize the connection until,like, 75% of the way through the movie. Otherwise, it feels like a pretty standard entry into the specific genre of British biopics of famous gay men in the arts? And I’m realizing that may basically be my go-to genre; I have a lot of those nights where I feel compelled to watch a movie but somehow none of the hundred or so movies already on my “to watch” list feel quite right, and yet, it is apparently always the right mood for another gay British period piece. So that’s good to know.


Mahler (1974)

I mean, this is very much a Ken Russell movie aka a lol what the fuck movie.

I’ve been meaning to watch Mahler for a while, because:

  1. Lisztomania—also a Ken Russell “biopic”— is by far my favorite lol what the fuck movie. I’ve managed to convince at least three dudes who are not family members to watch it over the years, which perhaps doesn’t sound super impressive, but given that it is a 1975 film about 19th century composer Franz Liszt as depicted by the (at the time) gloriously maned golden god Roger Daltrey, I’d say that’s a pretty big win1.
  2. Mahler the actual composer is fucking great.
  3. I stumbled on this scene from Mahler at some point and it is insane and I needed context

There is not actually that much more context within the movie, but there are a few more delightfully batshit sequences. It’s not the most traditionally plot-driven movie, but it certainly works as a weird extended music video for Mahler’s greatest hits, and, like Lisztomania, it’s just a fascinating take on the biopic, in that there are actually some legit facts among all of the trippy shit and, um, weird dealings with Judaism. Ken Russell made a few other composer “biopics,” including one on Richard Strauss2 that apparently depicts him “turn[ing] a blind eye to Nazi excesses, responding to SS thugs carving a Star of David in an elderly Jewish man’s chest by urging his orchestra to play louder, drowning out the screams” and has been banned from being screened until Strauss’s copyright expires in 2019, and wow, I am curious.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Oh god, so many feelings about this, but I am going to watch it again tomorrow as part of a 7 Days, 7 Star Wars thing that I will have a separate post about, so there should be more then. And I mean, the hype is probably annoying enough without me adding to it.

I will say: I was not super enthused about the concept of a new Star Wars, as I had (or so I thought) sort of gotten over the franchise in college. I was obviously still going to see this one, because it’s a major movie in a genre that I enjoy and the press tour for it was utterly delightful, but I was going into it with no expectations other than indifference. I went to the first available weekend screening (10AM on the Saturday of opening weekend), the theater was completely packed. And god, as soon as the logo came on-screen and the theme music started playing, I legit teared up and was, like, shit I guess I do care.

It was great and even that fucking child sitting behind me and asking her parents super dumb questions or just fucking naming the characters whenever they appeared on-screen could not ruin the experience. I love the new trio and their ambiguous sexual tension, I love Kylo Ren and his trenchcoat-wearing school shooter vibe, I love all of the secret parentage bullshit, I love the whole intertextual/remixing approach in somehow making this a remake, reboot, and sequel.

Have a graph:

tfa.01.07
For some sense of scale, as of 1/7/16, there were 2439 total TFA works on AO3, 802 of which were tagged Poe/Finn.

 


1. Also Ringo Starr plays the Pope. Also Richard Wagner is a vampire Nazi with a n electric guitar years that’s also a machine gun. Also there’s what YouTube is, well, accurately calling the “Giant Cock Scene” in which Liszt, while wearing a dress and singing, like, a rock ballad version of “Liebestraum No. 3 in A-flat,” suddenly sprouts a 6-foot penis and there’s a bit of a Fosse-esque dance break using it as a prop and it’s probably best seen to be believed. Also I’m not totally sure on this one, but I think the movie ends with Liszt and his wife and daughter going to heaven in a flying organ?   
2. At some point in college, I was spending a lot of time with the Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1, so I feel like I must have looked him up on Wikipedia to see if he was anti-Semitic and I thought the answer was, no, just German at the most unfortunate time? 

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