Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Tootsie, or: Feminist February Is Now

Last film of accidental smoking month and, as it turns out, my memory is even worse than I realized.  There is ONE instance of smoking in this film even though it’s 1982.  I thought everyone smoked in 1982.

Though our film this week makes little sense with our inadvertent theme of the month, it does transition us nicely into Feminist February.  After this review, Christa and my sister have seen Tootsie, so I can now say with conviction that I have contributed to the betterment of their lives.

The Film:


Where to Watch:

You’re on your own with this one.  (No, you can’t borrow my copy.)

The Premise:

American classic about Dustin Hoffman impersonating a woman to get acting gigs.  Frequently watched by Liz Lemon.

The Uncondensed Version:

As noted, Dustin Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey, struggling actor whose main (and possibly only) source of income is providing coaching for other actors.

Michael fails to get acting jobs because he’s never quite right for the part—but also because he has a terrible reputation for being difficult to work with.  His goal is to make enough money to be his own boss and put on Bill Murray’s play, who happens to be his roomie and bff.

Both dudes are reasonably sleazy, and Michael is a huge douche to his friend, Sandy.  Michael helps Sandy prepare for a role on the soap Southwest General, but ultimately steals the role as the incredibly cleverly named Dorothy Michaels.

a man comforts a crying woman on a darkened street
“What’s wrong?”  Besides you being a complete asshole?

The super sketchy director immediately says Dorothy’s not right for the role, but her sass impresses a female producer(?), who asks Dorothy to come back and audition.  Dorothy/Michael is definitely interested in costar Jessica Lange, who is sweet but in extreme need of some confidence.

After landing the role, Dorothy has some shopping to do, and it’s quite impressive (if a tad unrealistic) how quickly Michael masters the art of applying makeup.  However, he’s just about to make the major dick move of sleeping with Sandy if only to distract her from the fact that he was trying on her clothes.

a man helps fit a wig to another man's head
A true bff will always help adjust your wig.

Everything seems to be going well until there’s a rewrite of one of Dorothy’s scenes in which she’ll be kissing the creepy older actor (who plays a doctor).  She tries to discuss the scene with the fucking awful director, but he absolutely will not listen, calls all of the women “honey” or “baby,” tries to speak for Jessica, and makes creepy jokes about her being on her knees.  UGH.  At the very last moment, Dorothy hits the doctor on the head with a clipboard, after which the director insists that Dorothy discuss any changes she’d like to make with him beforehand.  And then the doctor kisses her anyway—what a sleaze.

Suddenly Michael finds himself worrying about things he never had to worry about when he was a male actor.  As a female actor, Dorothy has to worry about if she looks pretty enough, whether it will make a bad impression if a man answers her phone, and if she has anything appropriate to wear.  It’s almost like there are a slew of problems women have that men rarely—if ever—have to think about.

a woman walking along a busy sidewalk reaches up to adjust her hair
Did I just lose an earring?

On the other hand, Michael is still a bit of a dick as he lies to Sandy about being sick to avoid her and stands her up for dinner with Jessica Lange.

As it turns out, Jessica has a baby, a really terrible romantic relationship with the director, and quite possibly a drinking problem.  Oh, and a father with a keen interest in Dorothy’s life and career.

an older man and two women stand in a wooded area with a toddler
One big happy family?

Meanwhile, Dorothy is becoming a media sensation because of the sass she brings to her improvised lines.

Things get complicated when Dorothy’s contract is extended from 2 weeks to a year, and Jessica Lange’s father decides to ask Dorothy a very significant question. Michael/Dorothy is developing feelings for Jessica Lange, but he is STILL stringing Sandy along and making really lame excuses for not telling her the truth.  Not cool.

What I love about this film is Michael’s slowly dawning realization of the way he enforces a double standard for men and women, as well as how awful and misogynistic his excuses are regarding his treatment of women.  Fuck the patriarchy.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I love this film.  If you ever ask me about Tootsie and I say, “Eh, it’s not that great,” you’ll know I’ve been bodysnatched.  I want to give this film a standing ovation every time Dorothy goes off on the director about calling her “tootsie.”  Also Bill Murray is in this.

There’s a reason this is a classic, and it’s fucked how relevant a lot of this shit is for women in the workplace and their daily lives.

Minor beefs with this movie include the title (a major point of this film was NOT to call women “honey,” “tootsie,” etc, and the name of the fucking movie is Tootsie?!??!  Is it reclaiming the word tootsie???), offhand remarks about rape, the occasional gay joke that has not aged well, and “It Might Be You” getting stuck in my head every goddamn time.

Something’s telling me there might be a review (all of my life)…here on Christa’s blog.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Laura, or: Unintentional Smoking Month

Can we agree that last week was awful and never to speak of it again?  This week has to be better.  Has to if only by virtue of this week’s film:  Laura.

Incidentally, this month’s edition of Blog Free or Die Hard has morphed into a month of women who look insanely good smoking (to be clear, it’s gross IRL and will make you smell like a sad 1970s couch in a motel room).

As always, Christa’s thoughts about this film are greater in number than all of the cigarettes smoked in all of the films we’ve watched this month.  (That’s a lot.)

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A 1940s detective tries to solve the murder case of a young woman, seemingly by staring at her portrait and smoking a lot.

The Uncondensed Version:

As soon as the credits started rolling, I realized what an unfair pick this was.  First, it’s almost impossible to review this one without ruining absolutely everything.  Secondly, this is one of my absolute favorite films, and it’s beautiful and perfect.  I have watched this film, uh, a lot.  It’s like wrapping a blanket around myself.  So obv the following review is not the most objective post I’ve ever penned (typed).

If it hasn’t become abundantly clear from this blog, I love classics, film noir, and pretty 1940s dudes.  All bases covered with this one.

Our narrator, Waldo Lydecker, is an extremely ambiguous newspaper columnist.  He is charming, sarcastic, witty, and incredibly sketchy.  But this is noir, so literally everyone in this film is sketchy as fuck.

A man wearing a trench coat and fedora faces away from a man wearing a suit.
Everyone except you, Dana Andrews, 1940s man of my dreams.

Lydecker is about to reveal us the events of the weekend the titular Laura died.  To begin with, the obnoxiously good-looking detective, Mark McPherson, arrives to question Lydecker.  Mark is the archetypal 1940s detective:  silent, constantly smoking, and dropping sarcastic one-liners like it’s his job.  With the bonus interests of solving those ball bearing balance puzzles and taking fragile objects out of display cabinets.

When Mark arrives, Lydecker is just sort of chilling and taking a bubble bath.  He makes absolutely no move to get out of the bath and put on a robe during their conversation—he just keeps hanging out in the bath.  Neither man is particularly fazed.  Maybe 1940s dudes were just used to having conversations over the tub.

A man in a fedora smokes a cigarette, facing a man in a bathtub who is using a typewriter.
I probably would never leave that tub either, though.

As both a columnist and former friend/mentor to Laura, Lydecker has a keen interest in the investigation.  Because it’s the ‘40s and basically anything goes, Lydecker tags along with Mark even though HE IS A SUSPECT.  I know very little about police work, but even I know that is really unethical.

Our next suspect is Laura’s aunt, aka her fiancé’s benefactor.  It seems Aunt Ann has been making large cash withdrawals around the same time the fiancé, Shelby, has been making large cash deposits.  Suspicious.  On a side note, Shelby is played by a suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuper young Vincent Price, and it’s somewhat jarring to realize that VP was both really young and incredibly attractive at one point.  I mean, he was always attractive, but in a rather pretty way.

At a party, a woman smiles at a man who is making a funny facial expression.
Also the king of goofy facial expressions.

So anyway…Shelby is yet another suspect, especially when it comes to light that Laura was planning to go to the country to think their relationship over.  Apparently it’s cool for both Lydecker and Shelby to join Mark as he investigates Laura’s apartment, though.  Because if detective work has a motto, it’s “The more, the merrier.”

So it’s clear that everyone is a suspect, right?  Hold on because we’re about to get some backstory.  According to Lydecker, he celebrated Laura’s 22nd birthday with her, but had met her 5 years earlier?!?!  Which means she was SEVENTEEN.  PLEASE let that be incorrect.  That’s way too young to have an allegedly platonic relationship with a MUCH older newspaper columnist.  Let’s just ignore that math, ok?

As it turns out, Laura, novice in business and social finesse, approached Lydecker in an effort to gain his endorsement for her company’s pen advertisement.  Lydecker initially behaved like an insensitive ass, but changed his mind because of Laura’s natural charm, sincerity, and, I mean, probably at least a bit because she was super young.

Lydecker does this whole My Fair Lady thing in which he introduces her to all of the important society people, tells her how to wear her hair, and what clothes to choose.  It veers into creepy territory pretty quickly, but Laura is not at all interested in a romantic relationship with Lydecker.

Since he’s a reasonably creepy dude, Lydecker takes the totally reasonable approach along the lines of “If I can’t have her, no one will,” and proceeds to sabotage all of her relationships.

A woman wearing a striped suit stands behind a seated man.
That striped power suit:  number one reason the ’40s should make a comeback.

Back to the present:  Mark has sort of moved into Laura’s apartment given the amount of time he’s spent there trying to crack the case.  As Lydecker points out, A LOT of this time has been eaten up staring at the portrait of Laura painted by one of her former lovers.  Lydecker tells Mark to get a life or he’ll end up in a psych ward as the first man in love with a corpse.  Pretty sure he wouldn’t be the first, but ok…we get it, Lydecker.

This is all leading up to an EXTREMELY DRAMATIC PLOT TWIST THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING.  I would really hate to ruin the fun of this film, so just watch it, ok?

Also you’ll get to see propaganda for war bonds at the very end, which I consider pretty exciting.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I think the only film noir I like better is Out of the Past.

I find the commentary on how incredibly twisted people’s ideas about what love is to be absolutely perfect.  Almost all of the characters have foggy motives, and the mystery will keep you guessing.  Unless you’re really fucking good at Clue.  The real power of this film, however, is the story of Laura’s search for independence and assertiveness.  Not that I’d know anything about that.

See if Christa agrees in her review here!  She might even get out of the tub before you visit, but no promises.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

88, or: They Call Me Flamingo

After a brief interruption (caused by an absolutely vile stomach bug), Blog Free or Die Harder is back with a vengeance!

Can we please agree that this week is over, though?  It’s been a rough one.  Let’s all just give up and stay home tomorrow.  I will if you will.

This week is Christa’s pick, so I’ll try not to be rude about it.  But I’ll probably be at least a bit sarcastic.

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Katharine Isabelle swears vengeance on Christopher Lloyd but is a bit fuzzy on the details.

The Uncondensed Version:

Ugh, I don’t know where to start, you guys.  This film is ambitious enough to claim it’s a mix between Memento and Kill Bill on its promo poster, when it’s really more in the vein of Hobo with a Shotgun.  Without the hobo.

As the film opens, Katharine Isabelle (Gwen), is having horrible flashbacks in a diner but no recollection of the precise unfolding of events nor how she got there.  Her hand is bandaged and bleeding for unknown reasons, and she is visibly shaken when she sees cops sitting in a corner booth.  She draws attention to herself when the contents of her backpack go flying:  gumballs, gun, and all.  Oops.

I admittedly understand very little about firearms or the impulse to use them, but basics:  don’t put your finger on the trigger unless you want to shoot someone.  Don’t fucking do it.

Guess what Gwen does.  Just try.

She accidentally shoots a waitress BECAUSE SHE HAS HER FINGER ON THE FUCKING TRIGGER.  Gwen feels really bad about this obv, but still.  Easily preventable death that makes Katharine Isabelle do this horrible doe-eyed guilt thing for a large chunk of this film.  I much prefer to see her killing remorselessly.

a woman wearing a black shirt looks at herself in the mirror of a public bathroom

All of this results in Gwen going on the run from the cops and, as it turns out, Thug Christopher Lloyd.

BUT WAIT—there’s more.  This film’s end game is to come full-circle, so we have two timelines:  the present, in which Gwen is trying to remember what happened, and the past, which unfolds shortly before Gwen lost her memory.  It’s basically scared Gwen vs. sexy Gwen.  Ginger pre- and post-snap.

In the past, sexy Gwen collapses by the side of the road until some poor unfortunate dude with hillbilly facial hair stops.  She kills him in a very Ginger Snaps­-y kind of way (get used to the questionable Ginger Snaps references b/c they’re not going away).

a woman with a gun stands next to the of a deceased man; she is facing a red sports car parked on the side of the road

There are also flashbacks to Gwen with some bearded hipster dude.  Unsurprisingly, the revenge part of this film comes from someone (Christopher Lloyd) killing this guy.  I think this speaks more to the state of revenge films than my own twisted psyche, but I kept waiting for there to be a better reason for Gwen to seek vengeance.  Christopher Lloyd only killed one person you love and that’s enough for you to go on a violent shooting rampage?  You have to at least decimate someone’s village to make a meaningful revenge film any more.  Also I just sort of hated the love of Gwen’s life because (a) everyone kept calling him the love of her life, and (b) he reminded me of that awful lumberjack love interest of Sarah’s in Orphan Black.

So anyway.  Let’s pick up the pace, shall we, or we’ll be here all night.  Gwen recalls that Christopher Lloyd (Cyrus) didn’t handle it well when she broke the news that she was leaving with her lover, Aster.  Cyrus, in fact, flipped a lid and killed Aster before the two could escape.

Swearing vengeance, Gwen, aka Flamingo (seriously), teamed up with this really annoying guy to kill Cyrus.  Apparently Cyrus killed this guy’s sister, which has not improved his personality.  He’s kind of like if Aziz Ansari fell flat with every single joke and also killed people.

a woman crouches over an injured man, who is sitting against a white car

However, shit keeps getting in the way of their plan for revenge:  Gwen forgetting everything, Gwen getting arrested, and this guy (so annoying I can’t even remember his name) getting shot in the chest.  I was pissed at this point because he made the most irritating dying sounds I’ve ever heard but I thought, “Well, at least that’s the last we’ve heard from him.”  NO.  WRONG.  The fucked timelines of this film meant this dude could come back and talk even after dying.

From this point out, there is a lot of back and forth between past and present as the two timelines merge.  Gwen goes to Flamingos, we discover what Flamingos is, why there is so much sexy milk in this film, and what happened when Gwen confronted Cyrus at the bowling alley.  Gwen also eats a lot of burgers and breakfast foods.

a woman standing in the aisle of a convenience store drinks milk from the bottle

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the ending (even though I think the plot twist is more WTF in more of a The Village way rather than an Inception way).  We’ll just say there’s a final confrontation between Gwen and Cyrus b/c this is a revenge flick, for fuck’s sake.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Honestly, it would’ve been 1 except for Katharine Isabelle.  I don’t know if this film was supposed to be funny or not?  That’s always the most painful kind of film to watch.

And Christopher Lloyd was not a particularly believable thug.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

Is Christa swearing revenge on this film or would she join forces with it to take down shady thugs?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Barbara, or: There’s a Lot of Good Hair in East Germany

New year, new tag: Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab 2016! In approximately 6 weeks, the collab will be 1 year old! Sniffle. I’m so proud of you, blog collab.

My goal was to start out J&CGBC with a bang, but I may have inadvertently picked a whimper.  I TRIED, okay?!

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

The titular character, a doctor in 1980s East Germany, arrives in a small town for mysterious reasons. Hint: it has to do with communism.

The Uncondensed Version:

As Barbara arrives in the small East German town, it becomes clear that there are 2 types of people here: those who are friendly and interested, and those who irrationally hate Barbara for being a stranger. There is actually really only one person in the former category: the doctor with really nice hair who smokes. But it’s 1980s East Germany, so all of the doctors smoke.

a man in a doctor's lab coat stands by a window, looking out
[Insert inappropriate doctor joke here]
One of the other doctors says Barbara doesn’t have many friends since her incarceration. Incarceration—say what??? Do tell us more.

So the next day, Good Hair Doctor continues to make friendly gestures while Barbara remains aloof. This is how their relationship goes for most of the film.

a woman in a car faces forward with hair in a neatly arranged bun
Riding in cars with good hair, all around.

After work, the landlady introduces herself and says she has to show Barbara the cellar right then and there. Possibly because of our recent-ish viewing of Rosemary’s Baby, this scene freaked me the fuck OUT. DON’T TALK TO ANY OF YOUR NEIGHBORS EVER, BARBARA.

a woman stands at the doorway of a dimly lit basement

Anyway…this doesn’t end with the birth of Satan’s baby, so my fears all came to naught. Barbara sort of bicycles around a lot and looks mysterious.

There is some sort of exchange Barbara participates in every week or so in which she receives quite a lot of money in exchange for leaving some unknown parcel hidden by a cross in the middle of nowhere. She also meets up with her lover, some blonde guy who is not as attractive as the other doctor and likes to have sex outside. The two are planning to go West together soon.

However, complications arise because it’s East Germany. Barbara spends a lot of time discussing a Rembrandt painting with the doctor. More’s the point, she gets to know a teenager who is pregnant and at risk of having her baby taken by the government. Plus she’ll end up in a communist extermination camp—probably not the most fun ever.

Barbara FINALLY makes out with Good Hair Doctor just before she prepares to leave for the West, but it’s kind of a “meh” scene.  They do ride bicycles together, though, which is pretty damn adorable.

Okay, I sort of wasn’t paying the most attention ever at this point b/c I was also shopping for end tables at the same time. I think I’ve settled on round nesting end tables.

The point is, there is growing tension between Barbara’s plan to escape East Germany and her attachment to the town and its people. And by “people” I mean literally just the two mentioned above, as everyone else in the town is kind of terrible.  But still with hair so good it’s unreal.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I probably should’ve given this one more attention, but end tables are important. This is one I’d been meaning to watch for a while, and when Christa told me this was on several lists of feminist films, it sealed the deal. However, plot. I could’ve stood a bit more.

On the bright side, I think Bertha Mason enjoyed this week’s film.

a cat watches a tv screen that shows a person walking through a field
Either that or the fuzzy blanket. But let’s say it was the film, shall we?

Does Christa think this one is worth being sent to a communist extermination camp for?  Find out by reading her review here!