Sunday, December 28, 2008

2008 in DVDs

Last weekend, Belinda e-mailed noting a past DVD article and asking for something similar. Pressed for time, "DVD release of The Women (Ava and C.I.)" was quickly written. Belinda enjoyed that but was hoping for something like last year's "2007 in DVDs." This isn't that either. It is a quick look at some of the year's most talked about DVDs.

The Dark Knight -- Christian Bale and Heath Ledger star in this high school production of Tim Burton's Batman. Proof positive that the only sequel to Bale's Batman Begins should be Batman Ends.

Iron Man -- Only a male druggie like Robert Downey Jr., with multiple arrests and relapses, can be given multiple attempts at stardom despite the fact that, until this film, he never carried a box office hit. For those keeping track, America has had to endure Fish Lips Downey since the mid-eighties in films such as Chances Are. Two decades later, he finally scores with an action film originally set for Tom Cruise -- translation, no great acting challenge. Proof positive of how slowly time can pass. In four years, even the middle-aged virgins will be embarrassed to admit they cheered this crap on. Serves mainly to demonstrate how very thread-bare the scripts for these comic book films are. After awhile, they all blend in your mind and you start to gasp Jim Carey played it more convincingly as a sub-plot to Batman Forever.

The Incredible Hulk -- When your film flops, what to do? Fire the lead actor and act like you're making the first installment. Which is how Edward Norton replaces Eric Bana and 2003's Hulk becomes 2008's The Incredible Hulk. Good thing Norton worked out or 2010 might bring The Really Incredible Hulk. Every time the Hulk comes onscreen, you're reminded of the fact that Miss Piggy was a puppet and she had more humanity than the digitized eye sore being offered. Every time the Hulk is off screen, you're left to feel so sorry for Norton who attempts to bring so much to this repeated road rage passing for a character. Proof positive that real actors shouldn't even attempt to portray comic book heroes.

Shoot 'Em Up -- The film that proves you don't have to be based on a comic to be cartoonish. Clive Owen and everyone else involved should be ashamed at (a) what a bad film it is and (b) how sexist it is. This 2007 film was released on DVD in the first month of 2008, setting a benchmark for sexism that so many films to follow would rush to surpass.

It was so bad, in fact, that you'll notice we have never said one word about Sex In The City. Any other year and we would have had a ton to say. But 2008 was the year that women disappeared from the big screen and, when they were present, they were offered belitteling parts. Doubt us?

It's a long walk of shame to go from Oscar winning actress to flunkie, meek assistant needing to be rescued but Gwenyth Paltrow managed to do just that. And where were the critics?

They were hailing it, praising it. They should all be ashamed. Especially the White girls (Entertainment Weekly, we mean you especially) who tore apart Wanda Sykes' incredible comic turn in Monster-In-Law as they whined, "An African-American is playing an assistant! It feels racist to me!" Wanda's assistant was in control and took no s**t from anyone. But Wanda offended White girls who otherwise never weigh in race in their bad film reviews. The Great Gwenie? They found it delightful. An Oscar winning actress -- best actress, not supporting actress -- reduced to a glorified extra who waits to be saved by the hero and fetches her boss' dry cleaning with a smile. But nothing to object to there. (These are the same Water Cooler Critics drooling over Mad Men.)

The sexism wasn't just onscreen, it was on your TV and in your papers and magazines. The embrace of Gwenie as His Girl Friday was rooted in sexism. So were the hisses thrown at Meryl Streep for Mama Mia! The film was a blockbuster and one of 2008's biggest (even before you realize that no costly computer effects were needed for Mama Mia!) but, goodness, did the critics hiss. Apparently they mistook Meryl for their scratching post which is why all the tabbys from The New York Times on down showed their ass as they went after one of the few hits of 2008 with a strong role for an actress.

For the bulk of 2008, actresses were handed underwritten roles that, played as on paper, would have made them a laughingstock. Angelina Jolie chose to use the script of Wanted for little more than stage directions and managed to create a strong performance. It was a heroic undertaking and she deserves high praise. Also worthy of praise is Amy Poehler who was supposed to be the let's-all-laugh at the loser in the snobbish comedy written by a man whose 'knowledge' of class derives from Brit-coms he watched as a child. Tina Fey never seemed so stilted as she did in Baby Mama but she's not an actress and it shows as she recites line after line while looking ill at ease and, in fact, appearing unsure of where her character should be focused. Poehler inhabits the role of Angie and expands the simplistic notions of the writer (and director).

At a time when 'reality' television has left so many writers unemployed and under-employed, you might think a few of them could try writing meaty roles for women. Maybe in 2009.
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