Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Witch, or: Which Witch

If last week brought us closer to God (in the form of a glitter-covered Whitney Houston crooner), with this week’s film we are taking a hard right turn in the other direction.  Witchcraft, creepy twins, wild accusations, and fiendish goats are all in store for us this week.

The Film:

The Witch

The Premise:

A Puritan family banished from their New England community struggles to survive despite being cursed…by witches?

The Ramble:

It’s maybe not the best day ever for Thomasin and her family.  Recent arrivals to New England, head of the family William is banished for his outspoken opposition to accepted religious doctrine.  Big no-no for the Puritans.

Left to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar land, the family seems to be exceptionally unlucky with a rotting corn crop, empty traps in the woods, and very little of value to sell or trade.  In fact, the family is so unlucky they seem to be…cursed?  Perhaps by witches?

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The family’s troubles take an even more sinister turn when Thomasin, playing a game of peek-a-boo with her baby brother Samuel, witnesses him vanishing before her eyes.  After this incident, Thomasin’s mother and younger siblings become suspicious of her, even believing she gave the baby to witches.  It should be mentioned these two children are the creepiest twins since The Shining and are constantly singing to Black Philip, the family’s Satanic goat.

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Pretty much the only one still on Thomasin’s side is her brother Caleb.  She’s going to need the support as her mother decides the time has come for Thomasin to go into town and serve one of the respectable Puritan families.  Overhearing this plan, Caleb comes up with a solution to help Thomasin.  When the two venture into the woods, shit obviously goes horribly wrong.

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After disappearing, Caleb emerges from the woods naked and shivering in the rain.  He becomes seriously ill–an illness his mother is convinced is a sign of witchcraft.  Accusations fly all around in the direction of Thomasin and the twins.  Tired of this nonsense, William makes an executive decision to lock the children in with the goats for the night.

Who among these suspects is a witch?  And will any of them survive the night?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a revisit for both Christa and I this time around.  I remember enjoying the film the first time I watched, but I got a lot more out of it with a second viewing.

The film is beautifully moody, eerie, and overcast, mirroring the bleak future ahead for the family.  While it is faith that drives William’s decisions, it is also his faith that dooms the family and sends them on a course that is almost the complete opposite of what he wants.  Proud to a fault, William constantly chooses his own beliefs over the well-being of his family, who are forced to follow the path he creates.

It’s hard to like many of the characters, but it is fascinating to watch them react to their environment and fall into chaos.  The twins are truly terrifying and do a great deal in creating the film’s foreboding atmosphere suffused with dread.

There’s also a decided theme of women and power–specifically the fear of this combination.  It’s no coincidence that the accusations of witchcraft swirl around Thomasin as she is growing into adulthood.  The family fears Thomasin’s power as both witch and woman…which of course doesn’t hold up thematically in our world in any way…

Would Christa shun this one or grab a broom and unite with its coven?  Find out here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Holy Camp, or: I-E-I Will Always Love You

This week gives us a much-needed break from full-frontal scenes depicting the male (and female) anatomy, which is a feat unto itself.  Add Whitney Houston musical numbers, strong female friendships, and lesbian themes, and we’ve got…well, a film premise constructed from our dreams, essentially.

The Film:

Holy Camp! (La llamada)

The Premise:

Teen bffs at a religious summer camp must contend with secret parties, the crushing of their dreams, visits from an unexpectedly glittery God, and attractive nuns.

The Ramble:

Maria and Susana are besties for life reluctantly spending the summer at a religious camp for teens.  While initially planning to sneak out and party every night, Maria has lost interest in their schemes.  As it turns out, she has been meeting someone else at night–God.  And he seems to be a huge fan of Whitney Houston.

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This is your vision of God too, right?

After refusing to participate in a weekend canoe trip, Maria and Susana are effectively under house arrest with novice nun Milagros.  Though she tries to be stern, Milagros is too kind to be angry and bonds with Susana over their love of music.  Hmmmmmm…I wonder if perhaps Milagros has a secret past as the lead singer of a band…

Milagros isn’t the only one keeping a secret.  Susana, upset about the newfound distance between the two friends, accuses Maria of leaving her hanging.  Maria, on the other hand, thinks it’s time to grow up and forget about their dream to become a world-famous girl band.

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Bestie love.

Meanwhile, Sister Bernarda is convinced she has the perfect solution for reining the girls in:  music.  Though Milagros appreciates the thought, she finds Sr. Bernarda’s taste in music…a bit dated.  This leads to perhaps the finest nun-centric musical number since The Sound of Music.

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No caption needed.

Still on the outs with her bff, Maria, confides in Sr. Bernarda that God speaks to her through the songs of Whitney Houston.  Sr. Bernarda is less than understanding initially, but does eventually believe and support Maria.  With the help of the Sister, Maria learns to pray so she can understand God’s message but keeps her newfound faith a secret.

Susana is also keeping her feelings a secret.  When she sees Milagros dress up and sing into a hairbrush, reminiscing about her days as a singer, Susana develops a bit of a crush.  But does Milagros have a clue?

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Right on, Mary.

Though now armed with the power of prayer, Maria feels farther than ever from God when he laughs at her efforts and walks away.  She becomes despondent after this until Susana finally visits her and the two make up.  Susana confesses to Milagros that she’s in love with her, leaving the novice stunned.

How will the two best friends heal their relationship with the ones they love?  And might it perhaps involve a choreographed glitter-suffused dance number?

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Without hesitation.

I feel bad now about some of the other films I haven’t given a full 5 stars that probably deserved it.  This one definitely deserves it as it’s so fucking joyous and refreshing in so many ways.  All 4 of our leading characters are women, one of whom is rather aged.  Though she’s a bit out of touch, she is a respected and compassionate while remaining remarkably free of judgment.  The ladies of this film support each other so much, and I support that support.

The way love is explored is powerful:  spiritual love, the love between friends, and romantic love.  Both Maria and Susana express their love for each other by being true to themselves and honest with each other.  I also like the message about religion even as a completely non-religious person.  The way the faithful choose to worship is their decision–music is just as valid as prayer.

If this is what church had been like when I was growing up, you can be pretty damn sure my ass would’ve been in the pews about 3,000x more.

Was Christa singing the gospel of this film or did she convert to another immediately?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Love, or: Full-Frontal Male Misogyny

In the history of the Blog Collab, there have been only a handful of films so hated that Christa and I cannot contain our rage about them.  This is one of those films.

The Film:

Gaspar Noé’s Love

The Premise:

An awful garbage human being reflects on how he fucked things up with the so-called love of his life.

The Ramble:

Our film begins ever so tastefully in the middle of a 3-minute full-frontal sex scene.  If this is the kind of thing you’re into, good news–you’ll see so many endless, gratuitous sex scenes with all of the nudity.  All of it.

As it turns out, the scene depicts our protagonist and resident misogynist Murphy with his ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Electra.  In the present, Murphy’s memories of her are all he has.  Murphy is unhappily married to a woman named Omi with whom he shares a young son (named Gaspar, JFC).  As the film opens, Murphy learns that Electra is missing and quite possibly dead.

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Can’t…contain…douchebaggery…much longer…

Let’s just pause to appreciate the nature of Murphy’s marriage and the almost superhuman amount of self-pity he feels.  He’d definitely be top pick for Marvel’s Improbably Self-Pitying Misogynist Man.  Murphy believes his wife, Omi, deliberately became pregnant to trap him.  He regularly thinks shit like “I’m sick of this bitch.  Take care of the baby and leave me alone,” “I’m married because of a broken condom,” and “I hope she doesn’t make my son gay.”  What a catch.

As Murphy reflects on his present, he becomes lost in memories of his past with Electra and–lucky for us–details the tragic story of how their relationship unraveled.  When Electra and Murphy meet at a party, he is a film student who wants to make movies out of “blood, sperm, and tears.”  He’s the obnoxious film guy who gets indignant when Electra admits she hasn’t seen 2001.  Give it a rest, bro.

Electra is a struggling artist with a drug problem and a complicated relationship with her parents.  Despite their issues, Electra and Murphy fall into a passionate relationship with an absolutely unnecessary number of sex scenes.  The two believe they will start a family and be together forever because their love is so twu.

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Yet another reason to be grossed out by PDA.

Unfortunately, cracks begin to show quite quickly in this relationship (and not just ass cracks).  Electra’s ex, Noé (eye roll), has a successful gallery whose position to help her makes Murphy super jealous.  As the couple fights more and more, they go to extreme measures to save their relationship.  Naturally, this includes a visit to a gross underground sex club (I almost vomited when I thought about people having to clean this place), hiring a trans sex worker, and a threesome with a pretty young neighbor, Omi…aka Murphy’s future wife.

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A rare moment of fully-clothedness.

What happened to drive the final nail in the coffin?  And will Electra ever be seen again?  Does anyone give a shit?

The Rating:

1/5 Angry Pink Panther Heads

Ugh, the only thing worse than seeing Murphy’s dick so many times that it stops looking real is hearing this douchebag’s internal monologue throughout the film.  I have absolutely no sympathy for this dude’s existential angst as everything bad that’s happened to him is his own fucking fault yet he still doesn’t learn to treat women better.

Just for fun, a selection of Murphy’s internal thoughts:

“A dick has only one purpose:  to fuck.”  (Dicks fuck assholes.)

“Men understand each other; we have respect for each other.”

“I’m not a slave to pussy.  Pussy is pussy.”

The nature of Murphy and Electra’s relationship is also horrific.  This film should’ve just been called Sex or Fucking because what they share is not love.  The two spend an insufferable amount of time talking about what a great couple they are, but they’re actually the worst.

Only watch this one if you want to watch a porno while insisting to your friends at a party that this is true art.

Would Christa have a self-pitying wallow with this one or cover it quickly with a towel (and/or kill it with fire)?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Art of Loving, or: You Weren’t Found in a Cabbage Patch

It’s summer, so we’re doing what we want on the blog (in contrast to every other season).  This week we’re up for some education on sexual and reproductive health…in 1970s Poland.  Based on a true story!

The Film:

The Art of Loving

The Premise:

A renowned Polish gynecologist struggles to publish a book that addresses very real–and very taboo–sexual issues married couples experience.

The Ramble:

Michalina Wisłocka, having worked as a gynecologist for years in many parts of Poland, has long been an advocate for contraception and the demystification of sex. Now, in the 1970s, she is ready to publish a book to help married couples, and especially women, understand their reproductive health and sexual issues. Enter the Catholic Church, stage left. Also the Soviets. Plus the media. And throw in a few disgruntled misogynists too for good measure. Getting a book published on such a taboo topic is going to be a battle.

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…of wearing super chic boho-style headscarves.

As it turns out, Michalina has always been surrounded by controversy. After spying on a skinny dipping man with her bff Wanda, Michalina eventually ends up marrying him. In large part because of Wanda, Michalina and her husband Stach survive the war. Wanda goes to live with the couple, and they eventually become a threesome. Michalina thinks this will work out perfectly as Wanda fulfills Stach’s sexual needs, while Michalina will fulfill his emotional needs.

After the war is over, Michalina pursues a medical degree and the 3 live together in harmony. Of course, this doesn’t last—when both Michalina and Wanda become pregnant, things get rather complicated. As Wanda is an unmarried woman, Michalina claims both as her own children. This will be totally fine and never backfire as this unconventional family will be together forever…right?

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WWII lulz,

Yeah, maybe not. Wanda feels like a 3rd wheel and decides to leave with her son. This move will create absolutely no trauma for any parties involved…by which I mean SO much trauma for everyone. Wanda leaving triggers the dissolution of Michalina and Stach’s marriage, transforming a family of 5 into a party of 2.

Devastated, Michalina retreats to a small Polish village for the summer. Though she insists she’s taking a break from men, Michalina is nevertheless drawn to Jurek, a married sailor with a secret romantic streak.  From Jurek, Michalina gets her signature style of clothing made primarily from curtains.  She also feels encouraged to love and appreciate her body for the first time.  Unfortunately, Jurek is going to have to choose between his family and Michalina…3 guesses on how that turns out.

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We’ll always have Lubieniec…

In the present day (by which I mean the 1970s), Michalina is on the verge of publishing her book.  However, to avoid controversy, the chapter on female orgasms has been cut.  Following a ridiculous male rights conversation about men’s orgasms being important too (we know), Michalina walks with her book, refusing to compromise on this.

Will Michalina find a publisher and help thousands of Polish women reach their, er, full potential?  Related question:  is there a time in history when middle-aged white dudes are not trying to control women’s bodies?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I absolutely love the portrayal of Michalina in this (by Magdalena Boczarska).  She’s smart, confident, caring, and unwaveringly determined.  Some of her lines are absolutely brilliant–my favorites being “I am the sexual revolution and I’m coming,” and “You’re from a vagina; you weren’t found in a cabbage patch.”  What a woman.

However, there are a few things I find frustrating throughout the film.  The entire subplot of the secret baby mama feels melodramatic and disjointed.  Michalina is heartbroken when Wanda leaves with her child and believes both kids will be fucked up for life.  Yet after this scene, the film spends very little time exploring the effects on all parties and wrapping up this part of the story.

After the dissolution of the Michalina/Wanda/Stach relationship, the close bond between Michalina and Wanda disappears.  It’s frustrating to see such a genuine love vanish because of men–and indeed the extent to which Michalina’s early decisions are influenced by men.  While I adore Jurek and his surprisingly forward-thinking brand of 1970s Polish feminism, I dislike how much of the film revolves around Michalina’s relationships with men.

Would Christa flip straight to the dirty pictures or burn the manuscript?  Find out here!