Thursday, 30 June 2016

enemy mine

enemy mine takes place in a war-torn future in which a human fighter pilot crash lands on an alien world where his only companion is the enemy pilot he shot down. initially hostile, the two men are forced to rely on each other for survival when they realise the biggest threat to their existence is actually their new found home.

as a narrative enemy mine is hugely impressive in scale if perhaps a little too ambitious at times. while the initial set-up of two warriors on opposite sides of a galactic war finding themselves stranded together is a good one, the premise is dealt with fairly quickly. the two men actually come to terms with their predicament within the first twenty minutes and the film then relies on unearned sentimentality to carry us through a rushed first half. then again, it kind of has to in order to leave room for the craziness of the second half, and that's really where the issue lies. this is two stories. one is straightforward; it's hell in pacific in space, mixed with a little robinson crusoe, or even robinson crusoe on mars. the other is a little more complicated and aims to use to this small story of two enemies who become friends as a route to solving the problem of the galactic war itself. while i would have preferred to spend more time on the first story, the second half is certainly unexpected and allows us to see much more of the world than we first expect to see.

what really stands out in enemy mine is the production design. the alien world resembles every fantasy/sci-fi inspired seventies album cover ever, with brightly coloured skies, bizarre plant life and strange rock formations in every wide shot. the hostile nature of the environment is also effectively established, with regular meteor showers and snowstorms making it feel like nowhere is safe. then there is the local wildlife which consists of small, turtle-like creatures and large predators that hide in the dirt and seek out their prey with spiked tentacles. while the creature effects themselves are a bit dated the design work is great and it's always fantastic to see a good old practical creature effect at work.

the best effect work however is on the make-up for louis gosset jr.s character, jeriba. as well as the suitably alien design, parts of jeriba's head seem to breath independently giving the flesh a living quality and making it seem much less like a guy in a mask. speaking of that guy, gosset jr.s performance is incredible considering the discomfort the appliance must have caused. he makes jeriba seem warm and gives him a humanity at odds with his appearance. the combination of gosset jr.s performance and the incredible make-up effects make jeriba one of the most compelling alien characters ever seen on film.

as jeriba's human companion a young dennis quiad puts in a nice performance too, although often has to compete for screen time with a beard that is probably the least convincing effect in the whole film. that said, his relationship with jeriba feels genuine, particularly in the more tender moments when the film isn't afraid to become more like a love-story than a war drama. this is certainly something the filmmakers embrace with jeriba taking on more feminine traits (including, spolier, becoming pregnant) as their relationship develops.

another highlight is brion james turning up to play that character he always used to play in movies, the one that's always brion james. you know, this guy.

despite it's contrivances and overlong running time, there is something really interesting about enemy mine, both in the progressive nature of the relationship it presents and the use of a vast new world to tell a relatively small story. like the best science-fiction movies it focuses on ideas rather than plot, similar to films like silent running, solaris or more recently, moon. if you haven't seen it in a while it's worth revisiting, especially on blu-ray where the bright colour palette really stands out, and if you haven't seen it then it's a great alternative to the epic space operas that are currently coming back into style.

enemy mine is available now on blu-ray from eureka entertainment

Friday, 10 June 2016

the ghostbusters problem

i can tell you now, i’m going to see the new ghostbusters movie. i’m actually pretty fucking excited about it.

some internet critics are, apparently, not going to see it. you must understand that they aren’t not going because they aren’t feminists. you can tell this is a problematic argument from the number of negatives in that sentence.

i want to see it, apparently, because i am a feminist; twitter has pointed this out to me several times, which tells me something really sad – that despite arguments to the contrary, they perceive a film about four women doing something other than planning a wedding to be feminist. and for feminists. and equally, therefore, not for them. why is this important? why the fuck does it matter that i'm excited about a film that hasn't been released yet while the majority of people are very vocal about how much they are most certainly not excited? because this is ghettoising women and media about women; it’s following our long tradition of excising women from popular culture. what really makes me sad is that i’m not at all surprised – has the bechdel test taught us nothing?

recently, on the same day as i was tweeting about not judging the ghostbusters film before you’ve seen it, i read a news story about one of the girls captured in 2014 by boko haram who was found, with her baby, in the forest in nigeria. and someone on twitter said words to the effect of, 'we don’t need feminism in first world countries, only third world countries.' and i was sitting there thinking, how can some people not see that it’s all part of the same thing?

for you and i to get along here reader, we’re going to need to get a few things straight. we are not assigning a more important/less important hierarchy here. i’m not interested in ranking the severity or seriousness of an infinite number of instances of prejudice and discrimination. what i’m saying is it’s all worth caring about. it all matters. it’s all connected.

i listened to this american life #586 the same week as all this was going on.  it's the episode called ‘who do you think you are?’ and it pretty quickly became apparent that the first story was about fgm. female genital mutilation. i hope you already knew that. it was really hard to keep listening as the journalist talked about the tarp on the living room floor when she was 7, the necklace she was given, her first visit to a gynaecologist. so here’s the thing: does this girl need feminism? does it matter what country she lives in? what religion? if this happened in ethiopia, does she need it? how about the u.s.? (it happened in neither) does her brother need feminism? the gynaecologist?  the clergy that the family claimed to be pleasing by doing it, although they publicly condemned it as illegal?

i kept listening. i kept listening because we need to hear this. we, as people, need to accept that this is reality. it doesn’t matter if this is the reality for one woman or several million women. we all need feminism because this still happens in the world, and it doesn’t matter if that is on my doorstep or 10,000 miles away. it might as well have been my living room.

we all need feminism because i was reading an article about kurdish women in the armed forces fighting i,s. simon ross valentine is writing a book about the peshmerga. this is what he had to say about lt. colonel nahida ahmad rashid:

“Although feminine, possessing a warm demeanor and an affable sense of humor, she is every bit a commander: a disciplined and decisive leader.” 18/5/16

apparently, in 2016, women still need an ‘although’ before we can acknowledge their leadership skills.

we all need feminism because i have never seen four women in a blockbuster movie together. and if you aren’t excited about that happening, regardless of what has been rebooted or what you think about the trailer, then i will personally spread the tarp on your living room floor. not in an ‘i’m going to cut you’ kind of way, but to show you that it’s all one thing. that we mutilate the image of women that is projected, across the world, to create a gender that is nothing to do with any real people. that we disfigure and rob them of their power. that we circumcise their education and castrate their aspirations, whether that’s for a ghostbusting career or experiencing an orgasm. it isn’t a coincidence or an accident that women are subjected to genital mutilation in some countries and all but invisible in the centre of mainstream culture in another, that this is happening to THE SAME FUCKING GENDER. we all need feminism because we all need gender equity and it hasn’t happened yet, anywhere. and no, i’m not going to add that men suffer too or that they will benefit from equity as much as women. because you shouldn’t need to know that in order to care.

that's why i'm excited about seeing ghostbusters, and whether you care about the film or not we should all be celebrating the fact that it exists.