Posts tagged ‘oscars’

February 19, 2013

All the CIA ladies

the human spies are women

Having recently finished my prep for the Academy Awards — I have already watched all of the Best Picture nominees, which covers a lot of other categories as well — I did notice the divide between the two trends of favorites — American slavery versus the CIA. While I did have a hard time deciding between Argo, Django Unchained, Amour, Silver Linings and Zero Dark Thirty, in the end, what I truly hear my heart singing is Argo fuck yourself.

That, however, is just a practically unrelated introduction to the matter of CIA ladies. If teenage vampires and the revamping of Snow White (and as of later, Grimm princesses in general) have been ruling the world of television and cinema for a few years now, the women at the Company have been given their fair share amount of spotlight without me particularly noticing it until now: Homeland, of course, Covert Affairs, Zero Dark Thirty.

I guess there has been no relevant tale of female spies since Mata Hari, who is, by the way, not a fictional character (but perhaps I’m just not knowledgeable on this particular subject, female spies, and it is just I who have not heard of the others). That of course until now that we have Claire Danes, Jessica Chastain and in a lighter mood, Piper Perabo representing for us the true personal hardship that is endured by the good covert people gathering intelligence for America at the Agency.

Argo — like I said, my favorite movie this year (except for Intouchables, which in fact was my favorite movie this year, but it’s just not running for the Oscars) — is a (true, or almost) tale of bravery and patriotism, spiced up with a delicious dose of nonsense and of course, success, and I do love a happy ending. The main character played by Ben Affleck is a flawless man — in fact, his flaws are those of others, such as his wife, who has left him for not being able to cope with the secrecy that came with his job. His thoughts and actions are all mission and country, plus he’s the coolest CIA agent ever, with some amazing Hollywood connections. This, I repeat, is the portrayal of a real man, not a James Bond or a Jack Ryan (though he does remind me of the latter).

The CIA ladies, however, are problematic. Annie Walker from Covert Affairs is the one with the least problems — she falls in love with some very wrong dudes (such as an FSB spy or a rogue ex-CIA agent) and sees her relationship with her sister become a very difficult one from the moment she joins the Agency. Carrie Mathison from Homeland is on the verge of lunacy, having bipolar and borderline personality disorder and falling in love with even more wrong dudes such as an American (cough British) soldier turned by the TV series’ resident Bin Laden. Maya from Zero Dark Thirty has no love life — no personal life at all — and no particular issues with promoting torture. As the years go by and she sees many of her friends die in the hands of Muslim terrorists, the quest for Bin Laden (the real one in this case) becomes a personal matter to her.

What they all have in common is that they have deep personal issues (even if due to the complete absence of a personal life) and that they follow their instincts almost irrationally, or at least that is how their colleagues often perceive their initiatives. Brilliance is eventually conceded to those women, but always at the great cost of being on the verge of losing all credibility. On the other hand, the male spies we have come to know are creatures of distinct rationality and perceived audacity, not lunacy (we should perhaps nod to the construction of the new kind of fucked-up James Bond, who is, however, at least how I understand it, on a carefully crafted path to becoming the good old proper one), who do not have any particular concern about their family and friends that are worthy to be portrayed for longer than five minutes per episode, if that much.

Basically, the women were chosen to portray frailty — an angle rather absent from the espionage thematic until our recent times. The question remains — what lies behind the media choosing the female to represent the human side to anything? Something of which to be aware.

January 20, 2013

Academy enslaved

Django Unchained

This year, two of the movies running for the Best Picture Academy Award are about American slavery. This may or may not be a coincidence, considering there would be some political interest in such thematic in 2012, but the fact is, in spite of any other reason for it to be done as it was, Django Unchained is a hell of an interesting movie — I am not sure I can say the same for Lincoln, and when I say I am not sure, I actually mean it, because I couldn’t put up with it for more than 20 minutes. Back then, when I tried to watch it, I didn’t know there would be such a buzz about it, and now I am trying to commit to see the entire thing and maybe change my mind, but I remain unsuccessful in achieving that commitment.

Tarantino is a master of tasteful lack of taste. He doesn’t take his time to grab his viewer’s attention, going for our guts immediately as his movies starts showing on the screen: awesome (and loud) opening music, brilliantly designed credits, clashing colors and great photography are made available right from the beginning, as if to win you over without even a fight, or maybe, before you feel like putting up one when he starts doing the repulsive things he likes to pair up with his quirky, cheesy, and at the same time somewhat genius offers of sound and vision.

All in all, Django Unchained lacks somewhat in taste, as all of Tarantino’s work does, but that lack of taste is lovingly enveloped in some excellent acting, good screenplay, and some subtle reminders of the beauty of America which I have rather enjoyed (note to readers, I was not made in the U.S. of A.), particularly of it’s beauty — there is one scene in which the sandy desert and the mighty Rockies covered in snow appear side by side and that made me wonder, why did American filmmakers forget the amazing landscapes their country offers? — and the fact that it actually does harbor actors. Tarantino has understandably fallen under the spell of Christopher’s Waltz amazing acting talent and language skills (the man has no noticeable accent in any of the languages he speaks, and that is a rare gift), but at least the man has so far always played German characters in his movies, and the Americans are Americans. Now tell me, on a side note, why, oh why, is a British actor playing Abraham Lincoln? In fact, why are all American actors actually NOT Americans? I have been fooled so many times, now. I mean, Dr. House was a great shock for me, but I believe NOTHING compares to how hurt I felt when I discovered Sergeant Brody was a child of England too (an AMERICAN soldier has been turned, you know!?).

I have nothing against actors with U.K. citizenship — in fact, I share everyone’s enthusiasm about them — but I also believe it is kind of strange that American actors have become so irrelevant to a point that Meryl Streep is nominated to the Oscars every year she stars on any movie just because if she doesn’t, all contestants will be from the other side of the pond (or eventually from across the borders) and you know, the Academy just doesn’t dig that. Not to say Meryl is not a great actress, because she is, plus I’d much rather they’d chosen her for Lincoln’s wife instead of digging Sally Fields up from wherever she has been rightfully hiding. The fact remains, however, that there are not many other fellow ladies that share the birthplace of those two women and are having the opportunity to up their games.

Back to Django Unchained, well, it is beautiful and distasteful and somewhat erratic, but I truly believe that a movie such as this needs no commitment to taste: it can be as ruthless as it was, as crazy and violent and filled with dark good humor as it was, because honestly: slavery needs not be treated with seriousness anymore. The subject is beyond that. What it deserves is what it got here: strong mockery against the vile groups that perpetrated that unspeakable cruelty against mankind and that still have their distorted and disgusting beliefs echoing in the society of our days, disguised into something else, or not, but either way disturbingly present.

I have a radically different opinion of Inglorious Basterds, a movie that also mocks of unspeakable cruelty, but in a distasteful distasteful way — I must say I actually wouldn’t be surprised if calling on Waltz to play a German abolitionist in 1850s America was Tarantino’s way of saying he too believes Germans can be nice people. I confess, however, to having had a lot of fun watching that movie; what changed my mind towards my present opinion was an episode when a young German friend of mine looked genuinely sad when I mentioned it; that is when I realized how much those past events still impact and cause a lot of suffering on many good, innocent people, and here, mockery does not apply.

Having said that, I am not, as of this moment, rooting for Django, nor Lincoln. My favorite here is Argo fuck yourself (you need to watch the movie to understand why I, for no apparent reason, have just told you to fuck yourself) but I still haven’t watched Amour (very much admire the work of Michel Haneke), Les Misérables (love a good musical and Victor Hugo is definitely a plus here), Life of Pi (tiger and kid on a life saver boat? could be very good) or Silver Linings (enjoyed the trailer very much) so, basically, my opinion is worthless here. What is worthy, however, is Django Unchained of being watched by an immense crowd and nominated for a lot of awards, because if maybe it’s not good enough to win the prize, it is definitely ballsy enough to get a lot of credit. And well, if blood is not your thing, just close your eyes, and listen to the music.

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