Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Sometimes I just get tired of watching movies where 5 out of 6 characters are men, and a man is the protagonist, and a man is the villain, and a man is the best buddy, etc.

I thought I would go through the big movies of 2012 (not all the movies that came out because that would be 100+) and see how many women are represented in the more popular films.

The Top Five – The Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, Skyfall, and The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2.


The Avengers was the biggest movie of 2012 and, like this picture, it was overwhelmingly male. I admit I was disappointed that Joss Whedon, one of the more feminist directors out there, didn’t have more women in his movie. You could say he did a good job with what he was given. The cast was already chosen before he was tapped for the job. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, and Nick Fury were already cast in preceding films. I am not sure why he choose Black Widow out of the 20+ other female members of The Avengers (like Wasp, The Scarlett Witch, and Tigra) or why the female characters from the preceding movies like Jane Foster (Thor) and Betty Ross (The Hulk) were left out of this movie. Pepper Potts only had a very small role in the beginning and almost got a phone call from her lover and partner Tony Stark at the end.

Part of the problem, the same problem that I have seen over and over again the last several years, is that Hollywood isn’t writing anything new, but just rehashing popular movies, television shows, comics, video games, theme park rides, etc from the 1960 – 1980s, a time with few good female characters. If Hollywood keeps going back to the safe tired place of retro male action heroes we are unlikely to see change in this dynamic.

I hear the next Avengers movie will have more female characters. I can almost believe that since Joss will be directing again. But even if they double the amount of female superheroes from this movie to the next, that wont be near enough.


The next big movie of 2012, also based on a comic, was The Dark Knight Rises. The consistently wonderful Anne Hathaway played Catwoman, a female character who was intelligent, a force to reckon with, and an agent of her own destiny. Marion Cotillard SPOILERS might have been playing Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Liam Neeson’s character from the first movie. She was just using Bane to finish her father’s plan to destroy the corrupt city of Gotham. But there is other talk on the net that Miranda was not Talia, which I hope is true because Talia has a much more important role in Bruce Wayne’s life. Okaaaay… I’m getting off topic. Miranda may have been the mastermind but Bane was the real villain of Dark Knight Rises. He might not have been very scary or even intelligible, but he had more screen time than Cotillard, as did pretty much all the other male characters in the film (Gordon, Blake, Fox), except maybe Alfred.


Another huge hit of 2012 was The Hunger Games, our first movie to have an honest to goodness female lead. Many articles have been written about Katniss Everdeen and her bow. The books were huge and the movie was the third highest grossing film of the year. Katniss is kind of a superhero too but she was created in 2008, not 1963 (The Avengers) or 1939 (Batman.) She is from a Dystopian future where children have to fight each other to the death for a chance to sit at the buffet table.


Skyfall was the 4th highest grossing movie and, after Bond himself, the most important role in the movie goes to a short seventy-eight year old woman, Judi Dench. Bond’s partner, played by Naomie Harris, is strong, cool, and sexually adventurous, but I am not sure about the job she ended up with at the end. And I have a real problem with Bond jumping into the shower, unasked, with a victim of sex trafficking. Yeah, think about it. That is what happened. 😦 On pure action alone this was a great Bond film. But Bond has become an anti-hero, not cool but cold, and even cruel. He has always used women but you got the impression that sex with Double O was worth it. In Skyfall the sex is hot but it is also really cold. Overall I feel conflicted about the role of women in the latest Bond movie.


I did not see Part 2 of Breaking Dawn but I did see the first two movies and I read the books, so I can imagine how it went. The finale of the Twilight Saga was actually the fifth highest grossing movie of the year. We have 2 movies with female leads in the top 5, one that appealed to tweens of both genders and one that pretty much only drew in women (only women i.e. 1/2 the population).

So, 2 of the 5 highest grossing movies of 2012 had female leads and they were also pretty equal in number of male and female named characters. And both were also based on books written in the last 10 years.

Bond was both good and bad in its portrayal of women. Created in 1953 by Ian Fleming, this Bond has been updated for a modern audience, although not always for the best.

Dark Knight Rises had Catwoman in a central role but the ratio of main male characters to female was 7/2 and of named males to named females was 11/3. The ratio of The Avengers was 8/1, unless we include Agent Hill and Pepper Potts, which would mean we also have to include every named male character, bringing the ratio up to 12/3. But Agent Hill and Pepper Potts had fewer lines and screen time than the other non-supers.

Other notable films of 2012: Lincoln, Argo, The Hobbit, Cabin in the Woods, and Les Miserables.

Lincoln. What to say about Lincoln? The reality is that a drama set in the House of Representatives during the Civil War is going to be about white old men. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the movie or that it shouldn’t have been told. The problem is not that there are stories to be told that center around white men, it is that Hollywood overwhelmingly chooses to tell those stories.

Sally Field was great and gave a edgy energy to every scene she was in. But I don’t think she had more than a 30 sec conversation with the other female character in the movie Gloria Reuben, who was supposed to be Mary Todd’s confidante.


Argo is the first movie on this list that I haven’t seen yet but it might win several Academy Awards so I thought I should include it. Here is a quote from Nico Lang at Thought Catalog. You can read his whole article here.

“Of the movie’s thirteen or so lead roles, two of them are played by women — the relatively unknown Kerry Bishe and lesbian icon Clea DuVall, who hasn’t been near a lead role in a major film since 2004’s The Grudge. (Two of her last three efforts went almost straight-to-video and the third, the 2010 Hilary Swank drama, Conviction, she was barely in.) Playing the supportive yet timid wives and girlfriends of men with larger parts, DuVall and Bishe get to stand around and look nervous, and Bishe looks forever on the edge of tears. I can’t recall either of their characters’ names or a distinct thing they actually do in the film, and the actresses get to share the scraps of lines thrown to them. (My generous estimate is 20.)

However, they get off better than poor Taylor Schilling, who plays Affleck’s estranged (yet still supportive) wife. Having acted in a major film in the last year (the Zac Efron vehicle The Lucky One), Schilling is the de-facto most famous woman in this film — which is a tallest Hobbit situation if there ever were one. Schilling’s only other big role was in the shockingly inept 2010 adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and Bishe’s most famous work was on the last season of Scrubs, aka. Scrubs University — that no one watched. Despite her relative fame, Schilling doesn’t get any lines in the film, and you can see her face onscreen for three-ish seconds. Her job in the movie? She gets to hug Ben Affleck, a feat of acting prowess I bet she can’t wait to add to her IMDB profile.

With Schilling in the part, I imagine that her role was reduced from a larger one, and her plot line screams of Phantom Storyline syndrome. Throughout the film, much reference is made to Affleck’s wife and son, a device used to garner sympathy for his character, Tony Mendez. (He’s not just a tortured CIA agent; he’s a tortured CIA agent who cares.) This plot point isn’t necessary for the overall arc of the main action, and so I can see why Affleck whittled down its screen time. However, Affleck is able to give roles, jobs and actual lines to no less than 10 name character actors (like Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Victor Garber), TV actors (Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina and Bryan Cranston) and lesser-known-but-respected vets (Richard Kind and Tate Donovan). Arkin and Goodman, who steal the film, get ample screen time to cut up and be merry, and Garber and Donovan, who play smaller parts, are allowed to have a part in the narrative in a way the female characters simply are not.

Part of the movie’s marginalization of female characters can be rationalized away by the true-life nature of the film. Because the movie is “based on a true story,” Affleck and his screenwriter, Chris Terrio, have to somewhat stick to the facts and show the story the way things happened. But unlike this year’s Compliance, which told about as accurate of an account of real-life workplace abuse possible, Argo plays fast and loose with the facts for cinematic impact — to ramp up the drama and intensity. (If you needed someone to tell you the airport chase probably didn’t happen that way, you have no idea what the definition of a movie is.) Thus, the “we-had-to-stick-to-the-facts-so-no-lines-for-womenfolk” argument doesn’t hold up. If you can make room for an airport chase, a protracted dénouement where Mendez is awarded an Intelligence Star, a speech from Jimmy Carter (that adds nothing to the film) and a gratuitous shot of Affleck’s abs, you can give one woman something to do. Anything at all. I’m not saying they should create a new role for a woman or magically create a female spy (it’s not Alias, after all), but the women here deserve more than virtual silence.”

Well said, eh? I think I am going to have to start following Mr. Lang. Based on what he is looking for in a mate I think we would be besties.




Oh yeah. Heh.

I am so glad this movie got made and I don’t care that much if the awesome Kate Blanchett was in it or not. Tolkien wrote great literature (Yes, I am calling it literature and not fantasy) that was pretty much devoid of women. In the book the only female Hobbit mentioned is Lobelia. And there are, apparently, no female Dwarves, no female Goblins, no female Trolls, no female Wizards, no female Elves, etc. Maybe someday someone will figure out why Tolkien wrote such a sausage fest, but it was the story he was inspired to write and it was well done.


Cabin in the Woods is our third movie with a female lead. It also has Joss Whedon written all over it. CitW was hilarious, intelligent, surprising, and dark. If you haven’t seen it yet, let me tell you that it is not the movie that you think it is. It plays with tropes, including the “whore” and “virgin” characters seen in most horror movies. I don’t want to say too much, other than this movie got it right.


Les Miserables has very strong box office numbers so far, coming in as the second biggest Christmas opener ever. This is yet another story drawn from times gone by where women only existed to give men something to struggle for. But Les Mis is larger than its stereotypical gender roles. It is a story about humanity, both large and small.

The named characters were 6/4 male to female. Jean Valjean and Javert were the leads but you could easily argue that Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, did much more with her role than Russell Crowe. Her time on screen was painful yet captivating. I’m really happy for this very interesting woman and accomplished actor. Besides starring into two huge movies this year she has also played great characters in some other very good movies, like Brokeback Mountain, Becoming Jane, and Rachel Getting Married, the last truly showcasing her talent. Hathaway is also an LGBT rights activist, and involved in various charities for women, children, human rights, and arts advocacy.

Children’s Movies of 2012 – Brave, Frankenweenie, Wreck-it Ralph, and Rise of the Guardians.


Brave was Pixars first movie with a female lead. Which is kind of crazy to think about, given how much we love Pixar. But still, it’s true. Pixar came out with 12 feature films before they had one with a female lead. At one point I did a break down of male to female main characters in Pixar films and, before Brave, it was 24/9. That isn’t good, but it is even worse if you compare male supporting characters to female, there you have something like 106/26. With the addition of Brave that goes up to 116/29. What is up with that?

I think we can say that Pixar had a lot to answer for with Brave. Unfortunately it didn’t say what I wanted to hear. Brave was beautiful, for sure. But it was not as funny as most Pixar films, it did not work on two levels, like most Pixar films, and the female was mainly dealing with the bitter fact that she was female, rather then just having an adventure, making choices, being a hero, like the male characters do in most Pixar films. Brave is still totally worth watching. If I wasn’t expecting Pixar to right all the gender issue wrongs in one fell swoop I would have enjoyed the movie more.


Unlike Brave, Frankenweenie was clever, had humor that reached out to both kids and adults, and had zombie pets. While Brave dealt with gender roles  and mother/daughter relationships, Frankenweenie dealt with highly intelligent children (a subject that is also near and dear to my heart), passion, and science.

This movie still had 8/3 male to female ratio, although none of the boys or girls fit into tired old gender stereotypes. It was a very nice, heartwarming movie.


Looking at this picture you can do the math, 2 guys and 2 girls. Two tall, two short. Two powerhouses, two with other useful skills. Two have dark hair and two are blond. But only one goes barefoot. Wreck-it Ralph is another movie that did it right. I don’t just mean the male to female ratio. It was funny, interesting, well plotted, nostalgic, and also very modern in it’s themes and sensibilities. Also we all love Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch. Wreck-it Ralph gets 4 Gold Stars.


I didn’t see Rise of the Guardians and I don’t plan to. I’m just not up for seeing another “super-hero” movie, this one based on a series of illustrated books that came out in 2011 and 2012, with such a lopsided representation of male to female characters. In RotG, the Tooth Fairy is the only female with powers. The other main non magical character is a boy, Jamie Bennett. Really Dreamworks? Is that how you are going to do this? *sigh*

Some of these movies also didn’t pass the Bechdel Test. Which is a pretty easy test, made up of three parts.

1. It has to have at least two [named] women in it
2. Who talk to each other
3. About something besides a man
These movies didn’t pass:
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit
Rise of the Guardians
These did:
The Hunger Games
Skyfall (Just barely passed, with one conversation in the beginning between M and Eve)
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (which doesn’t mean this movie is a good example of feminism)
Argo (which doesn’t mean this movie actual did anything more than have two female characters talk to each other for 1 minute)
Cabin in the Woods
Les Miserables
Wreck-it Ralph
So what is the point of all this? Am I saying that Twilight was a better movie than Lincoln or The Hobbit because it had more women? No. I’m making a point that although women make up half the population we are still woefully underrepresented in films. This is a problem. Both women and men and boys and girls need to see films that represent the reality that women are real people, with their own motivations, drives, agendas, and stories. A few women may be getting more complex roles but they are still enacting those roles in a man’s world. I think Hollywood can either add to and support the male dominated establishment that harms both men and women, or they can aim for equality. Of course, Hollywood is going to focus mostly on making movies that make money. So it is up to you, the audience, to spend your dollars wisely and be that change you want to see in the world. Speaking of equality, let’s look at those movies again to see how many people of color are included… Seven. Seven characters in Fourteen movies. Jesus… Movies, we are doing it wrong.

Read Full Post »

1. If he grows up to be a writer he should watch movies written by women, movies with female protagonists, and movies that tell women’s stories so that he will also be able to write complex realistic female characters because that is just better writing.

2. If he grows up to be a video game designer he will be able to design games that have cross-over appeal, tapping into a larger market, making games that are accessible to the other half of the population, or at least people his games with females that are there for more than just their T&A.

3. If he is a teacher or coach he will be able to understand his female students better. He will be more comfortable and effective teaching to them.

4. If he is a manager he will see the value in hiring women and paying them equally to what he pays men. He will create and uphold a professional environment where women are treated with respect and given equal opportunities.

5. If he grows up and falls in love women won’t seem so mysterious. He will have some understanding of what makes them tick. He will be more comfortable with her needs and feelings, because they won’t be foreign. He will be a better husband.

6. If he has a daughter he can be more to her. She will feel like she can share her interests, likes, loves, and feelings with him and he will be better able to advise, comfort and support her. He can help her dream big and reach those dreams. He will be a better father.

7. The more accurate representations of females that he sees in the media the more he will see women as real people, equals and peers. He will be able to be a more fully developed person and a better man.

Seeing Brave wont accomplish all this, but it is a start. Here are some other movies I recommend you watch with your son,the earlier you start the better:

Spirited Away by Miyazaki
Howl’s Moving Castle by Miyazaki
Ponyo by Miyazaki
Nausicca by Miyazaki
My Neighbor Totoro by Miyazaki
Kiki’s Delivery Service by Miyazaki

Pippi Longstocking

The Secret of Nymh
Whale Rider

And when they get older pretty much anything by Joss Whedon.

Read Full Post »

Watch tv, like me!

I love netflix and tivo. They allow me to watch whole seasons of tv shows at once. If it is a good show I can watch two or three episodes a night, if it’s a bad show I can tell myself that I will watch them later and then, ultimately, delete the whole thing.

Here are some shows that I watched the entirety of this year and my reviews:

Breaking Bad – This is one of the best shows currently on tv. I wouldn’t rank it as an all time great (like Dexter, Deadwood, Firefly, and the first two seasons of Veronica Mars) but it is completely engrossing, thought-provoking, discussion evoking, funny, sad, stressful, and very well acted.

I call Breaking Bad “The Anti-Lost”, whereas as we ultimately found out that Lost didn’t know what the hell it was doing and it was riddled with loose ends and red herrings, Breaking Bad is all about cause and effect, and follows up on every action with a logical consequence.

Another thing I really love about Breaking Bad is that it is not afraid to change the game. This isn’t one of those shows with a central secret that no one ever finds out about. The show isn’t about Walt keeping his job as a meth cooker secret, it is about Walt’s choices. It is like watching a train wreck to see this good man “break bad.”

Twin Peaks – Why did I never watch this series before? It seems almost tailor made for me. Kyle Maclachlan (hot), Sherilynn Fenn (hotter), Joan Chen (hottest), a dancing dwarf, jazz music, owls, the white lodge, David Lynch, David Duchovny in drag, a giant, arson, murder, dreams, a one-armed man, and a boatload of other weirdness.

I kind of loved Twin Peaks. It is definitely cultish, but also kind of cheesy with a low production budget and some crazy overacting. But that is all part of the charm.

The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was actually pretty good, though unconventional. And I loved most of the side plots too. I agree with others who said the networks, who pushed Lynch to change his original story and reveal Laura Palmer’s killer early, did damage the integrity of the Lynch’s vision. But even so, oh what a vision it was! Twin Peaks was part murder mystery, part creepy circus, part dream and all scrumptious surreal goodness.

Mad Men – I was late to the Mad Men bandwagon, which meant that I could watch all the episodes back to back to back, and I did. I was obsessed with Mad Men and averaged two episodes a night until I had watched all the seasons.

Other people have described Mad Men’s appeal much better that I can. What I loved the most about it was it’s portrayal of women, gender roles, and how the knife of sexism cut both ways. I loved Betty Draper, Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway.

I didn’t really like where they went with Betty  in season three and onward, I felt it was out of character and wasn’t the best storyline. They could have done better, imo. But the first two seasons of Mad Men are brilliant.

Shameless – The UK version. Shameless is one of my favorite television shows of all time. (Right up there with Dexter, Deadwood, Firefly and Veronica Mars) Be sure you watch the UK version, because I have now seen the first season of the US version and it is only about half as good.

Fair warning, this show is MESSED UP. They really take the concept of “shameless” and work it for all it is worth. The characters have every kind of sex, abuse every kind of drug, steal, kidnap babies, commit adultery, beat people up, engage in prostitution, fraud, and murder and they do it in the most hilarious way. All that, and the first two seasons have James McAvoy. This is truly an excellent show, so surprising, so funny, so shocking and fresh. If you only watch one show that I recommend watch Shameless. You can get the first season on Netflix.

Spartacus – This show was also messed up. There were copious amounts of blood, gore, naked bodies, and sex. The gore was almost too much for me at several points and I had to look away and have Brian tell me what it was safe to look back. Spartacus was pretty much the definition of gratuitous sex and violence. It was shocking and over the top and not necessarily in a good way.

Both Shameless and Spartacus were pushing boundaries but, for some reason, I loved what Shameless was doing and there were times when I seriously considered walking away from Spartacus. Maybe because Shameless was smart in a way that Spartacus wasn’t. Also Shameless was never sickeningly gory. Spartacus wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t especially great either. I guess it was titillating violence porn.

American Horror Story – I think I have a theme of “messed up” shows this year. I just finished the first season of American Horror Story last night. Last week I was complaining about it and telling Brian that I might not want to finish the season. On the fifth to the last episode I paused in the middle of the episode to rant about all it’s problems (mostly it was too choppy and lacked coherence) but then the last four episodes came together and were good enough that I finished watching the series.

Overall I did not like American Horror Story. I like horror movies. I watch a lot of them. I feel like I know what makes something scary. I also feel like the writers of AHS decided to throw every possible ghost story they could think up into the first season of the show. But that wasn’t their first mistake. I think, in an attempt to make the story more dreamlike, or rather, nightmarish, they made the scenes very choppy. They were more like a series of horrible little vignettes than a linear storyline. They also made the typical annoying sitcom blunder of not having any of the characters talk to each other or confide in each other, which, inevitably, led to way more problems than necessary. In sitcoms they play it for laughs, but in AHS the lack of communication between the characters broke my suspension of disbelief in a show that was already having problems keeping me happy.  And, like Spartacus, AHS was gratuitously gory at times. But AHS did have some great acting, especially Jessica Lange and Connie Britton.

I hear American Horror Story was picked up for a second season, but I doubt I will watch it, at least not in real time, as it airs. If it is better than the first season I will hear about it and then I can watch the whole season at once on netflix. 🙂

Read Full Post »

This year was the first that I can remember that we celebrated Thanksgiving with just the three of us. And, while we missed our family that couldn’t be here with us, we had a very special celebration.

We cooked and ate all our traditional foods – turkey, sausage stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, etc. During our early meal we talked about all the things we were Thankful for and made several toasts, including toasting to Brian’s parents and our lost cat Merry.

Then we walked down to the woods and took a hike. I was trying to find a cool stone staircase I had seen once on a bike ride, but we weren’t on the bike path. Brian thought maybe I was taking them deeper and deeper into the woods for nefarious reasons, but I pointed out that we were actually walking parallel to the Sckuylkill River the whole time. The path we took is my new favorite path, it was so rough and wild. I want to go back there asap with my drawing pad and maybe a basket to collect nuts and stones.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the walk we had turkey sandwiches and then went to see The Muppets. I love The Muppets. When I was a kid it was my favorite show. Then, when it went off the air, Fraggle Rock was. I love all the Jim Henson movies, like The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth and Farscape. Jim Henson is one of my all time heroes and I think The Muppet Show was classic and worked on so many levels.

I had heard good reviews about the new movie and I can say that I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t the best of the newer Muppet movie (I really like Muppet Treasure Island with Tim Curry) but it was great to see the gang back together. And the new songs by Bret McKenzie, from the band Flight of the Conchords,  were very Bret-ish, which means they were hilarious.  Still… something was niggling at me, something that I didn’t like about the movie that I couldn’t put my finger on. Then it came to me just before I fell asleep. Kermit had no comic timing.

I remember Jim Henson’s Kermit very well, and not just because I own The Muppet Show seasons on DVD. Kermit /Jim had excellent comic timing and a kind of subtle sarcastic humor. This new Kermit was all schmaltzy all the time. Everything Kermit said was just so earnest and heartfelt, which isn’t really what Kermit is all about.

Oh well, it was a still a good movie and I had this suspicion that maybe Disney is testing the waters to see if a new Muppet television show would be popular. I could dig that man. Can you imagine “It’s the Muppet Show, with our very special guest Lady Gaga!”


Read Full Post »


The Neverending Story


The Dark Crystal

Studio Ghibli Films (I recommend the Japanese versions with English subtitles)

  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • Ponyo
  • Nausicaa
  • Spirited Away
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Howl’s Moving Castle

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Pippi Longstocking – starring Inger Nilsson

All the Harry Potter movies

Curse of the Wererabbit (and other Wallace and Gromit shorts)


The Secret of Nymh

The Iron Giant

The Incredibles

The Secret of Roan Inish

The Secret of the Kells



Whale Rider

The Princess Bride

The Wizard of Oz

Beauty and the Beast – The 1947 Jean Cocteau version

A few more, that might be for kids a bit older

Pirates of the Caribeaan
Princess Mononoke
Lord of the Rings
Edward Scissorhands
Clash of the Titans – the 1981 Ray Harryhausen version

Please add you own to the list!

Read Full Post »