"I’m not sure I agree with you a hundred percent on your police work there, Lou."
Do yourself a favor and listen to the Replacements today, you deserve it.
Shadows and Fog (1991) - dir. Woody Allen
One of Allen’s strangest adventures through film, but it’s exactly the reason I love Woody so much. He took a shot, and yes, he missed, but he does so in glorious fashion. Allen constructed one of the largest filmsets in New York City (ever, at that point) and made an old-fashioned movie. Shadows and Fog is based on a one-act play, written by Allen, called Death. The subject of the film is quite obvious - death has always been a subject that Allen has obsessed over.
More than just a brief discussion about one’s existence, the film is also an ode to German Expressionism and is, as a result, full of shadows, and fog. The plot is gimmicky, and the filmmaking - admittedly - is far from his best, but we still get at the essence of the man. He’s always trying more than one thing at once, and sometimes he repeats himself - but more often than not he gets a bunch of great actors* to be a part of some small heartfelt project, and you get the feeling that for a man so obsessed with death, he’s exceptionally gifted at capturing life.
*including, but not limited to: Allen himself, Madonna, John C. Reilly. Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Lily Tomlin, William H. Macy, Wallace Shawn, David Ogden Stiers and Mia Farrow.
Philip Kaufman is entirely capable of surprising you. I want you to know that that was my mindset going in. With a cast that includes David Strathairn and Samuel L. Jackson, and a script centering around a female character (actually written by a female writer) I thought… hey, this could be cool. It’s a terrible film, with some atrocious tropes.
It’s almost impressive to include nothing original. Like, nothing at all.
An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) - dir. Taylor Hackford
I feel like this is the film that inspired the Bechdel Test. There’s a certain light-reading aspect to the film that makes it impossible to look away - which is unfortunate because of the misogynistic atrocities that take place on the screen.
The film has three female characters:
Casey Seeger (Lisa Elibacher) - a fellow trainee in the Officer’s program. She is the only female trainee, and it is pointed out to her repeatedly that she will never possess the appropriate upper-body strength to compete with the men. There is a literal wall she must get over by the end of the film, and when she finally does it is only because of the help from the male protagonist (Richard Gere). Finally, she is given the title of Gunnery Sgt. Seeger, which is supposed to be the female victory in the film, but she’s still very clearly not as good as the men, and is even called a “second class citizen” because of her lady-parts.
Paula Pokrifki (Debra Winger) - who is the principal female character here and Winger was actually nominated for an Oscar for her performance here. Paula is one of the “Puget Sound Debs” who (this is an actual quote): “comes across the ferry every weekend with just one thing on their mind, and that’s to marry themselves a naval aviator.” This is HER ENTIRE MOTIVE. She says she just wants to have fun, but the success of her character’s arc is based entirely on her getting a man to love her.
Lynette Pomeroy (Lisa Blount) - I had to save her for last. She acts as Paula’s wing-girl and is immediately noticed by the men for having “a nice set of ta-tas.” So desperate for the love of a man, she tells Sid Worley (David Keith) that “she’s late.” Worley tells her to get an abortion but she won’t, and she tells him it’s okay, it’s her problem not his. Worley quits the Officer School, much to Lynette’s disappointment so that he can be a proper father. She then tells him she’s just got her period and she won’t marry him. This man just broke up with his fiancee (though the men cheating on women back home is literally joked about and never addressed seriously) and quit his only career path, so he then kills himself.
He kills himself.
Because the moral of this story is that the worst thing to do to someone is to try and “trap” them with their femininity and lie about contraceptives in order to get pregnant.
I want all my fellow feminists to watch this on Netflix Instant and just let the rage pool up inside you. Also, of note, it’s hard to argue against the two Oscars the film did win, Louis Gossett Jr. is terrific (though R. Lee Ermey did that role 1000x better in Full Metal Jacket), and the song’s pretty good. But on principal….