For those who know me well, you’ll know I hover around in a perpetual Marxist-Feminist vigilance. I’m also a hopelessly cinephilic sucker for a cool-looking, nail-biting thriller of a film. What happens when the former meets the latter? Can’t… process. Too… many… contradictions. Here’s my list of this year’s Films That Were Awesome In Every Way Except For Their Weird Politics.
The Dark Knight Rises
Forgive me in advance for my reluctant recourse to that overexposed and overdetermined academic spectacle, Slavoj Å½iÅ¾ek, but the man makes some very interesting points in his essay about the labour and class politics of The Dark Knight Rises . What else could capitalist popular culture have done with the Occupy movement but turn labour and class activism into a violent, dystopian war of exclusion? And, believe me, the fact that Bane (Tom Hardy) was so awesome in that filthy sheepskin coat and that voice made even me doubt my own politics for a moment or two. I wanted to join him and get down with his bad self! It’s moments like this, when you catch yourself letting go of your staunch beliefs for a perfectly-constructed movie villain, in which one must be careful to remember that it’s just a movie.
Oh man, this movie was awesome! Beautifully choreographed action scenes, a gripping and twisted narrative, sharp bleakness in the futuristic set design, stellar performances by both Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis, and non-stop thrills to boot! What more could one want? Oh wait a minute… all men are uncontrollable rage/party monsters (including the little kid) until they are tempered by the generous, selfless, gentle love and care of A Good Woman (Wife/Mother)? Give me freaking break. What a sad way for an incredible film to go.
The Iron Lady
I actually liked this film quite a lot, and Meryl Streep’s Oscar was well-deserved. The early parts of the film are filled with some very touching and impressive ball-busting scenes, as Margaret Thatcher infiltrates the Boys’ Club of British Parliament. I almost found myself cheering for her from a feminist perspective. But let’s get real: she totally goes on to gut the public trust and insinuates that people’s problems are solely their own fault. Libertarian at her worst. Blech.
Don’t you love a good “caper”? You know, lies, money, heists, schemes, mysteries, and double-crossings? This is exactly one of those films, and it’s excellent. Moreover, it’s an art forgery caper (and if there’s one thing I love more than my politics, it’s art). But then you get to the end of the film and you find out that the main character embroiled himself in all these crazy, dangerous schemes for one reason and one reason only: he’s shorter than his wife. Eye-roll extraordinaire.
Killer Joe and Spring Breakers
These two are tough ones. I’m a big fan of both. They’re incredible, unique, and skillfully-executed films. I’d watch both again, and repeatedly, for sure. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their politics, per se , and in fact, both films could be read as scathing, incisive critiques of American consumerism and the hyper-sexualisation of young women. The only reason I’m including them on this list is that they’re related to a contentious new trend in media exploitation which has to do with the so-called “trashy” demographic (see: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo et al). Where do we draw the line between laughing with and laughing at these people? I certainly don’t have the answer, but it’s a thought-provoking question.
Toronto Film Scene’s “Best of 2012” series continues throughout December.
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