29 + 1: Film Review

Yes women-centred films! 29 + 1, written and directed by a woman, Kearen Pang is a wonderful film about two women who’ve never officially met but who share a birthday, and eventually “form a deep and invisible bond.“  The film is set in 2005 and it plays with memory and time. Christy has a hectic but glamorous job, a long term boyfriend and supportive friends. Christy doesn’t want to get married and is proud of her independence. Her life is full of light colours, bodily discipline and stifling routine. Continue reading 29 + 1: Film Review

Felices 140 (Happy 140): Film Review

Part of the Spanish Film Festival, Felices 140 (Happy 140) stars Mirabel Verdu as Elia, a woman throwing herself an elaborate 40th birthday party in a remote villa. She invites her sister’s family and her lifelong friends as well as an old lover, who shows up in a helicopter with a self-centred and vain girlfriend half his age. This consistently amusing film takes a twisted turn, after Elia reveals she’s won €140 million.

Envy and resentment bubbling below the surface rises quickly as a moral crisis threatens Elia’s happiness. Interestingly, Elia’s grand romantic gesture to sweep her old flame off his feet is an unfamiliar twist on usual romantic comedy fodder. Continue reading Felices 140 (Happy 140): Film Review

Shock Wave: Film Review

Shock Wave, written and directed by Herman Yau, stars Andy Lau, who also acts as producer. The film has a ridiculous plot centred on Cheung Choi-san (Lau), a policeman and explosives expert who inexplicably goes undercover with criminals and subsequently allows them to blow up half of Hong Kong before arresting only one of them. Years later, he’s disarming bombs left, right and centre in the city without wearing protective gear. Hot shot men don’t need to follow the rules, they are made of reinforced steel! Continue reading Shock Wave: Film Review

Ma Ma: Film Review

Penelope Cruz is absolutely wonderful in Ma Ma, the biggest feature at the Spanish Film Festival in Canberra. Cruz plays Magda, a single mother who decides to leave her cheating husband, a professor of Philosophy who is sleeping with his students (!). This decision coincides with her learning that she has breast cancer.

On the same day of her marital independence, she meets and forms a friendship with Arturo (Luis Tosar), an ailing husband who, also on this fateful day, learns his wife and child have been in an accident.

This film begins by exploring grief and human connection through loss, but soon proves itself a film about life and how to be happy in brief, imperfect moments. The film is a beautiful celebration of motherhood; the film ends with a dedication: “to all the women.”

There is more to like about this movie: it’s depiction of friendship especially as well as its wrestling with faith and atheism. It is a lovely statement on the diversity of families and ultimately has an affirming message about gay fatherhood. While there are many cliches along the way about living life to the fullest, there is great joy in seeing a woman-centred story where the journey is driven by her own desires.

Score: Distinction (7.5/10). Continue reading Ma Ma: Film Review

BadSciFilm: Prometheus

On Twitter, I host satiric discussions of science fiction films on Twitter, using the hashtag #BadSciFilm, with a focus on the sociology of science representation. I watch the movie, making comments in real time. This post is about the divisive movie Prometheus, a reboot of the Aliens franchise. I love the film, despite its many flaws – and gooddess help us – it has many flaws. This post archives my tweets focusing on the ways in which research processes are reflected and how the stereotypical characters reflect gendered notions of scientists.

In Prometheus, scientists are obsessed with colonisation, but, in usual science fiction fashion, colonial expansion is not ever reflected in its cultural connections to genocide of Indigenous people and the enslavement of African diasporic people on Earth. Scientists take their safety gear off with abandon, they touch alien life forms without protection, and their monologes about scientific discovery are inflated by hubris. The aliens (known as trilobites) mutate rapidly and kill not simply to reproduce, but seemingly just to wreck havoc on the humans.

The Aliens films perpetuate a stark duality about cisgender women and birthing, steeped in patriarchy. On the one hand, women in the stories are presented as conveniently “unencumbered” by motherhood, because their children have died (Ripley in the original films), or they are secretly cyborgs (Annalee Call in Alien Resurrection). In the case of Prometheus, women have trouble conceiving (Shaw) or they are overly ambitious (Vickers). On the other hand, women also suffer due to their motherhood urges. In the second film, Aliens, Ripley is put in danger in order to rescue the young stoway survivor Newt. In Prometheus, Shaw is terrorised after she was inadvertently impregnated by her partner, who was infected with an alien virus. We are treated to an over-the-top abortion of sorts, where Shaw’s alien-baby tries to tear her to shreds, and ultimately consumes another alien by the end of the film.

The fact that the aliens burst out of human chests for horrific effect is a simulation of birth as a violent event.

Prometheus is also deeply impressed with phallic symbolism, as aliens repeatedly force their way into both human and alien male’s mouths in visceral confrontations.

Enjoy my Twitter interactions with other scientists below! Continue reading BadSciFilm: Prometheus

Million Dollar Mermaid

Million Dollar Mermaid: Annette Kellerman is a current exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum. Kellerman was an Anglo Australian woman who broke many records and was a superstar in her day. Born into a highly educated and musical family in Sydney, she was diagnosed with rickets as a girl. She took up swimming to strengthen her legs and showed such prowess that male athletes encouraged her to take up high diving in the early 1900s, which high class Anglo Australian women did not do at the time. Still a teenager and having swam across the mighty Yarra River in Melbourne, she went to London in 1905 and competed in men’s marathon swims in the Thames, Seine and Danube rivers. Continue reading Million Dollar Mermaid

The Gender Pay Gap and Race

Actress Natalie Portman is the latest White woman celebrity to talk about the gender pay gap in ways that demonstrate tunnel vision on the intersections between racism and gender inequity. From Patricia Arquette’s highly misguided attempt to discuss the wage disparity during her 2015 Oscars speech, to Jennifer Lawrence’s essay calling for equal pay, White actresses have a very skewed view of the inequities faced by “women” in the entertainment industry and in everyday life.

What does the gender pay gap look like when viewed through the intersections of gender, race and other social categories? What do we learn about mainstream feminism’s vision for equal pay, when we become more conscious of Whiteness and White privilege?

Continue reading The Gender Pay Gap and Race

The Companion: Film Review

Playing at the Sydney Latin American Film Festival, The Companion is a Cuban film centred on Horacio, a Black Cubano who is a former boxing champion now disgraced. Played by Yotuel Romero, Horacio is assigned to work at a military-run hospital (”Los Cocos”) where all Cubans who were HIV positive were quarantined in the 1980s under the guise of universal healthcare. Continue reading The Companion: Film Review

Guarani: Film Review

As part of Cine Latino, I watched Solos, a Peruvian film, which I enjoyed, but let’s deep dive into Guarani, which was absolutely sublime. This year’s program has fewer women-centred films than previous Latin film festivals in recent years, but Guarani was so beautifully rendered.

Continue reading Guarani: Film Review

Sidetracked: Film Review

At the Spanish Film Festival 2016, I saw many good films; one of which was Las Ovejas No Pierden El Tren (translated to “Sidetracked” but that’s not quite right – direct translation is the sheep don’t miss the train).

The film was a very sweet comedy about the relationship between adult siblings and their parents, and about coming to terms with the disappointment that life does not turn out how you hope. The film had a lovely recurring theme about how people trick themselves into thinking they’re happy, and wasting time pretending to be happy, or angry and disappointed that they don’t get what they want how they want it.

Image: Bar lounge at the Electric Palace Cinema,Canberra, host of the Spanish Film Festival.