Judy, Judy, Judy! [via]
The thing is, in a similar way to how a “manic pixie dream girl” is a limiting criticism of a film’s characterization, I’m not sure if “the Bedchel test” should necessarily be a “bare-minimum standard,” and what real change comes from criticizing that representation, in movies and TV. At its heart, it’s a joke, and a pretty good one, as seen in the original panel from Alison Bedchel’s Dykes to Watch Out For (above). But when critics mention it as a metric of whether something’s good or bad, judging art by whether it reflects your experience or not, I wonder if we’re losing something.
In the company of wolves with Kim Morgan sunsetgun.typepad.com/
conceived and shot by Kim Morgan & Guy Maddin
Contemporary costume, even from popular movies, is surprisingly hard to trace. What has happened to George Clooney’s Aloha shirts from The Descendants? The film’s costume designer Wendy Chuck isn’t sure. “I have no idea where his shirts went, probably into the stock at Fox costume house,” she guesses. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s iconic jacket worn as social armour in Brick? Another uncertain costume designer. Michele Posch rented three of the jackets from the Universal Studio’s costume department in order to distress a couple for different moments in the film. Their current whereabouts are uncertain. “The jackets were returned but I have looked recently and they seem to be gone,” Michele explains. “Could be someone has rented them for another project or that they were lost at some point.” Another piece of collectable costume (or three) goes missing.
I still remember the first time I ever saw a two-dollar bill. It was in a wallet, on a TV screen in the living room of my childhood home. The wallet belonged to a dead woman called Ida Sessions, and it was Jack Nicholson who was riffling through it: Social Security Card; Screen Actors Guild Membership; two-dollar bill. I was maybe 12 or 13 and had never even set foot in America, but like anyone in the English-speaking world who watched way too many movies, I felt I knew the country like the back of my hand. Certainly its currency, which seemed more like real money than the colorful, monopoly notes we used, so often had I seen it brimming out of briefcases, left contemptuously on nightstands or fluttering down like green confetti after an explosion. But I had never seen a two-dollar bill, so that, of all things, was the detail that snagged my attention the first time I watched Roman Polanski’s “Chinatown.”
I doubt that it’s of much use to note that a scene in a kitchen brought mid-career Fassbinder to mind. The frame seems boxier here, the colors definitely brighter—see the still above; that orange-red glass and those blatantly yellow fingernails are at one point complemented by the angular turquoise-and-white design of a pack of cigarettes—and there are two camera movements that are clearly meant to draw attention to themselves as well as to the pairing they accentuate.
The continued abuse of a movie that had already been relegated to the slab could be taken as profaning a corpse. But it was on the midnight-movie circuit—a place where the occult is taken seriously and vampires and zombies feel at home—thatShowgirls began its rise from the grave. Though few people wanted to seeShowgirls when it was in theaters, on home video it became a curiosity, and then a minor group-viewing phenomenon. Starting in 1996, MGM graciously offered prints to repertory theaters, and then hired drag queens to attend the screenings and encourage audience participation.
Suddenly, Showgirls's major reference point had shifted from Valley of the Dolls toThe Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). "A performer named Winona, in a black vinyl miniskirt and bustier, passed out scripts that cued viewers... when to shout along with the dopiest lines," reported the New York Times. "The movie rolled, accompanied by non-stop shouted wisecracks. When Nomi threw a pile of French fries during a dramatic scene, a heckler yelled ‘Overact, Nomi!'" MGM had allowed their intellectual property to be reduced to a punch line, but in the end, the studio laughed all the way to the bank. The various re-releases shored up Showgirls' box-office take until it became, with all revenue streams accounted for, one of the most profitable titles in the studio's back catalogue. To date, Showgirls has grossed more than $100 million. To quote the film's loquacious screenwriter: "Remember that chicken shit can turn into chicken liver."
Why I'd like to be... [Still waiting for cross-gender-lines candidates in this Guardian role model series.]
But much more importantly, what we witness in Private Benjamin is an awakening of spirit and the uncovering and rejection of the Prince Charming myth. Anyone who appears to be coming to the rescue has something to gain for themselves. This realisation first dawns on our battered and bruised heroine when her parents come to release her from basic training – and she perceives that they are not there to save her, but their family's reputation.
“The great strength of the movies in the 1940s,” Manny Farber once wrote, “was the subversive power of the bit player.” Few had more such power than the character actor SKELTON BARNABY KNAGGS (1911–55). With Jack Elam and Rondo Hatton, Knaggs was one of the most memorably unattractive men in the history of movies. Emaciated, pockmarked, with waxy skin and bulging eyes, Knaggs had the face and manner of a dried-up tangerine.
Appearing in the first half of Lauren Greenfield’s Thin (2006), this moment is a remarkable representation of disordered eating. It is neither sensational nor aspirational—it is boring. And when it comes to narratives about eating disorders, the tedious approach is rarely taken. Instead, mainstream media gives us images of shrunken bodies or endless discussions of self-regulation (widely accepted in the form of diet trends and cleanses); eating disorders are either foreign and grotesque (who would ever want to look like that?) or normalized (who doesn’t want to be thin, really?). With no representations of the grey area between these two extremes, this complex mental disease becomes an easily digestible story of shock and awe, sickness and health, and exteriority over interiority. Then there is Greenfield’s documentary. Rejecting these frameworks, she aims for a depiction of something closer to the isolating experience of addiction, emphasizing the mundane, the dull, the routine.
The HBO-produced documentary follows four women at Renfrew: Shelley, Polly, Brittany, and Alisa. For most of their lives, these women have binged, purged, and restricted, which has led to incidences of self-harm and attempted suicide. Renfrew, they all say, is their last hope for recovery. As this brief plot synopsis suggests, the potential for sensationalism lies at every turn. But rather than indulge in theatrics, Thin, like its subjects, restricts its worldview to the present moment. A moment that, for the four women the camera is following, is consumed by and structured around one thing: food.
Greenfield’s emphasis on this myopia of the moment is what writer Alice Gregory would call “radical.” Writing in The New York Times, Gregory says: “When it comes to writing about anorexia, the only truly radical move, as far as I can tell, would be to show clearly just how profoundly boring it is—not sad or prurient or overdetermined.” For Gregory, discussing EDs should not be centred around idealized tales of tortured geniuses or brave survivors who have found self-acceptance—these are normalizing, unchallenging narratives. As Gregory bluntly puts it: “a voluntarily isolated person choosing not to eat until she’s addicted to not eating doesn’t make for a very good story.” Because of this, Gregory says, “I don’t know what a deliberately boring book about anorexia would look like.” The film version might look like Greenfield’s documentary.