Amoeblog

From the women's picture to the chick flick

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 31, 2009 05:52pm | Post a Comment
30 Helens

I wrongly assumed that it would be easy to fire off a blog briefly summarizing the history of women’s pictures. When I began, I quickly realized that it is a genre that’s simplistically treated as synonymous with both weepies/tearjerkers and their near opposite, the rom-com; it quickly proved to be more than I bargained for, which is why it’s showing up on this, the last day of Women’s History Month. The history of the genre occupies an interesting position, little discussed and yet obviously affecting and responding to the Hollywood narrative, the larger global film market, and broader history. Anyway, it proved to be a bit too much so, here's the fast & furious driveby account of a genre that deserves more.


First of all, tear-inducing films are by no means all women's pictures, which is why someone coined the annoying term “guy cry” for young male-targeted stories/films about dying dogs (e.g. My Dog Skip, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, &c). For adult males, sentimental melodramas (usually tempered by the macho backdrop of war, the wild west or sports (e.g. Bang the Drum Slowly, Brian’s Song, Knute Rockne) allow men the opportunity to cry with less shame. But, whereas men generally try to resist crying, telling themselves in the heat of a battle scene as the hero lies dying in his buddy's arms, "It's only a movie. It's only a movie. You will not cry!"; women, it is assumed, seek out movies with the hope that they will have "good cry." I have no doubt that this is part of why women’s pictures have rarely been afforded serious critical examination and were only lauded, for the most part, near the beginning of film history.

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Ya Hoidz Me? - Talk About Bounce Music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 20, 2009 12:01am | Post a Comment
Uptown New Orleans

For some reason, the Bounce scene, born nearly 20 years ago, seems to be undergoing a minor critical reassessment as it inspires curiosity in a new generation of fans amongst the young, the Euro, the old and new. I can only guess why. I suspect that part of it is a development of the ongoing, time-delayed, middle class fascination with vulgar, good-time booty, that, as with booty bass, gogo, ghettotech and juke house before, takes a little longer to catch on beyond the music's traditional base. Or perhaps it’s just the curiosity factor due to the prevalence of so many openly gay rappers, who have been the subject of articles in The Village Voice, The Guardian and The New York Times -- although their readers are unlikely to run out and buy the latest
Sissy Rap record. There was even a piece on Bounce for NPR’s stomach-turning attempt at hipness, What's the New What? ...Just the title of that show makes me feel like I've been kicked where it hurts.


On the other hand, sites like
Louisiana Rap, Nola Bounce and Twankle and Glisten have done a good job in documenting the scene and suggest a much deeper, more honest appreciation that makes me happy. I'll be honest, the idea of a politician claiming to like Bounce would make me die a little inside. Yet, I’d love it if all these underappreciated, undercredited artists who made Bounce happen got some well-deserved acknowledgment and attention. With films like Ya Heard Me documenting the scene and Youtubers like 1825 Tulane Ave and Whatheallman tirelessly keeping Bounce in your ear, I guess I can live with the idea that some ironic, comb-over-wearing member of the Dumpster Click is going to be into it too. Anyway, for the time being, if you look up "New Orleans Bounce" on Youtube, you're (currently, at least) unlikely to be confronted with the image an American Apparel/Vice Magazine disaster doing the Eddie Bow.

Women of the Western

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 16, 2009 06:48pm | Post a Comment
 

Ever since the dawn of film theory, film critics have loved to talk about the Western; probaby because its engagement with formula and its psychological subtext are so obvious, so close to the surface, that it's like kicking gravel and striking oil. For example, the genre bears a similarity to tales of knights errant, who similarly were bound by codes of honor and used strength and wit to defeat malevolence, &c &c &c... Part of what makes the Western attractive for film theorists is the way it shifts and evolves too -- spiraling off subgenres like Curry Westerns, Northerns, Oesterns, Red Westerns ands Spaghetti Westerns -- and engages other genres like samurai films and noir. But whereas a little bit of research turns up several scholarly works addressing women's place in the Western, I haven't been able to find any that focus on female-centric Westerns, nor been able to uncover a clever or cutesy name for the subgenre. When I started this blog, I thought I'd come up with a tiny handful, but was quickly surprised at how many Westerns feature females in roles of central importance.

   
Real women of the west. washing clothes (left), famous madame Chicago Joe (center), bandit Belle Starr (right)

To be sure, the Wild West was, in fact, a male-dominated place. Of course, there were women too who, just like their male counterparts, were probably more likely to run a ranch or work in town than to find work as gunslingers, bandits and bounty hunters... although there were those too. The National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame has, since its founding, sought to better document the contributions of women in the west. Although women in Westerns generally seem to symbolize civilization/the east, making cowboys uneasy with their use of risque talk and their attempts to transport urban conventions to an untamed land, in real life, that role would've been impractical and probably abandoned pretty quickly. When there's work to be done, propriety and traditional societal constructions would just get in the way. In fact, in Wyoming, for example, women gained the right to vote in 1869, over 40 years before the ratification of the nineteenth amendment. The photographs of Evelyn Cameron depict no-nonsense women who have little in common with the dippy, ditzy cowgirls of Gil Elvgren's art or Hollywood cowgirls. Of course, I'm not suggesting that Hollywood is in the business of portraying reality, but it's interesting to look at the decisions they make when constructing mythology.

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Women's history documentaries

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 14, 2009 10:19am | Post a Comment









              

Elliott Smith's Strange Parallel

Posted by Miss Ess, March 13, 2009 06:10pm | Post a Comment
elliott smith

Elliott Smith
remains unquestionably one of my favorite songwriters of all time, though I don't listen to him much these days.
elliott smith strange parallel
Way back in 1998, when I did not live in a major city and was just barely in college, I somehow felt like I was the only person in the world listening to Elliott Smith. This was before Hot Topic, just before emo went mainstream, and before irony had so massively elliott smith robot handcrushed sincerity in an epic battle of wits. In these early-ish days of the internet, I managed to contact someone through a fansite and get my hands on a tape of a film about Elliott, Strange Parallel, made by the idiosyncratic Steve Hanft. I don't think I had ever seen footage of Elliott at the time.

When I put the tape in my VCR and the film unfolded before me, I remember laughing aloud all by myself at the sight of it: I was completely overwhelmed by the fact that there was Elliott, live and onscreen, wearing his Bocephus shirt and digging a hole in the woods, out of which came a guitar. In my isolation, I somehow felt like he and Steve had made this film just for me. It was stunning. At the same time, I also was tickled by the greater idea that someone had made this film, thinking that many other people would watch and enjoy it -- who were these people?! This film pointed the way toward the world beyond just myself, a world of people who maybe thought a least a little like me, especially when it came to music. I would eventually have to move to San Francisco to find them en masse.
elliott smith
Strange Parallel clearly shows Elliott's genius and highlights his sense of humor as well. I think it is one of my favorite things ever. In the 10 years since this film was made, information and odd, detached connections are so much more quickly at our fingertips, and Smith has gained noteriety for so many things, mostly and unfotunately outside his music, but perhaps this footage and the songs within it will be a revelation for you as well.

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