Thursday, July 26, 2012

Animation cures Jet Lag

I've just returned from an exciting and emotional trip "across the pond" to see family and friends in Germany, and Jet Lag is kicking my butt.  I don't know what's happened to me, but it took me almost the entire trip to feel better than a zombie...I have the most acute envy for first class travelers who seem to always be reveling in what I imagine are the utmost luxuries.

Seems that we got out of Europe in the nick of time, since Olympic madness officially hits tomorrow in the UK, and really, everywhere else.  Rumor has it that during the opening ceremonies, J.K. Rowling's "Lord Voldemort" is going to be battling "Mary Poppins."  This type of stunt could never be accomplished by the truly incompetent Olympic Deliverance Team that populate BBC America's fantastic satirical comedy Twenty Twelve, which premiered a while ago in the UK, but has only been showing here in the U.S. this summer, supposedly in preparation for some real Olympic coverage.

If you're a Downton Abbey fan (and I'm most assuredly not), you'll notice that the well dressed chap standing next to the weird looking giant clock is none other than Lord Grantham himself, Hugh Bonneville.  He's the leader of this group of misfits, and just watching him ride his fold-up bike to his office every morning is hilarious--especially because he cannot fold his bike, and crushes his hand EVERY TIME.  Bonneville won a BAFTA for Twenty Twelve before Lord Grantham was even a twinkle in the eye of U.S. pop culture, and he deserves it.  Here's hoping that the Olympics are "brilliant," despite the deliverance committee's ability to make everything go all "pear-shaped."

Speaking of Olympic madness, though, even the city's vermin are getting into the act. Check out Leo Bridle and Amael Isnard's short animated film, Olympic Vermin.

I love how these adorable cardboard vermin re-purpose London's trash in their own version of passing the torch.  Yet, they're all paper thin creatures, so one fears that they may self-immolate through their incendiary devices.  Oh NOOOO!

Speaking of imminent danger, I also wanted to post this light-hearted little animated film that's an ode to Red Shirts and their all too soon demise.  If you're thinking "What the heck is a Red Shirt?"--well, you're not alone.  The term comes from the fans of the original Star Trek television series.  If you recall, cast members wearing red shirts were always marked for early destruction.  Seems fitting that so shortly after our own Pop Olympics, known as San Diego's Comic.con, M.J.Hibbett and the Validators would see fit to create this lovely video.  We should all pray for Darren, since he's not long for this world.

Perhaps once my brain solidifies from it's Jet Lag fondue state, I'll get down to more serious criticism, but for now, enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Designers of Tommorowland

Yesterday was Buckminster Fuller's birthday, and that commemoration sent me on a visual journey to find the most beautiful images of some of his most famous works: the US Pavilion at the 1967 Montreal World Expo, The Dymaxion House and the Dymaxion car, his Fly's Eye dome.  Richard Buckminster Fuller, born July 12, 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts, was a futurist visionary.  I was also pleased to find out that he was a bit of a troublemaker, having been kicked out of Harvard twice for raucous misbehavior (the first time for blowing all his money partying with a vaudeville troupe).

Recently, artist and documentarian Sam Green, in conjunction with the San Francisco MOMA's exhibit "The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the SF Area," created a multi-part documentary project on Fuller entitled The Love Song of R.Buckminster Fuller.  The film premiered May 1, 2012 with a live soundtrack performance by Yo La Tango.  Heavy Sigh.  This experience makes me seriously lament the fact that I live in the middle of f***ing nowhere, and cannot experience these types of things first hand.  Heavy Sigh squared.

At least I have these gorgeous images to peruse, so that I can experience his modernist, space-age visions vicariously.  His geodesic domes, and houses and cars of tomorrow are stunning design achievements and the dream settings for so many films I have in my head.  Spy spoofs, Sci-fi monsters, and chic dystopias all.

1967 Montreal Biosphere
Materials Park Dome in Ohio

Dymaxion House
Dymaxion House interior
Dymaxion Car
Fly's Eye Dome
Protective Dome over Midtown Manhattan

Wishing Bucky Fuller a happy birthday immediately got me thinking about my favorite building in Chicago, the Marina City towers, affectionately known by Chicagoans as the Corn Cobs.  These towers were completed by Betrand Goldberg in 1964, and he actually collaborated with good friend Fuller on several projects.  People can (and still) live in Marina City, and it also houses Chicago's House of Blues in its theater.  Here are some of my favorite Marina City images:

Goldberg also created the stunning Prentice Women's Hospital, which is now part of Northwestern University.  His eye for bold shapes really filters through all of his Chicago works.

So, as it usually happens when one is stumbling around the internet looking for certain images, one can also make some cool discoveries.  In an article on balconies for the Chicago Tribune, I unsurprisingly ran across images of the Aqua Tower in Chicago.  At 82 stories, it is the tallest building in the world designed by a woman, and Jeanne Gang designed it when she was 45 years old in 2009.

Yes, I have a major crush on her.  She won a MacArthur Genius Grant in 2011, and her building is so beautiful.  I'm heading to Chicago for a conference in early August, and I am going to take a zillion photos of this place!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

TAKE THIS WALTZ--Sarah Polley (2011)

I finally saw Sarah Polley's latest film, Take this Waltz (2011), and its definitely on the roster for my Women Directors class.  I have to especially thank Didion at "Feminema" for recommending the film; Her site is the single best place for discussions of feminism and cinema out there, and I encourage everyone to follow her.  Her writing is inspiring: sharp and astute, witty, occasionally outraged but also full of delight.  Awesome.

Polley directs her films with a graceful eye and a nuanced touch.  Her first feature, Away from Her (2006), based on an Alice Munro short story, showcases the luminous Julie Christie as a woman suffering from Alzheimer's, and Gordon Pinsent as the man losing his wife and closest friend.  While Polley has a wonderful ear for how people talk to each other, her silences, and the visual images that fill them, really speak to her particular talents.

Take this Waltz is supposedly inspired by the Leonard Cohen song of the same name, which plays during a really cool spinning camera montage sequence at film's end.  I'm not really a fan of the gravelly voiced songster, but I don't get the Tom Waits love either, even though he's great in Down by LawThe lyrics to Cohen's song are impressively poetic and evocative.

The film is an examination of contemporary coupling through the eyes of the prickly, slightly neurotic Margo, played with downbeat reserve by Michelle Williams. Returning from a writing assignment, Margo shares a plane ride, and a cab, with the sharp-tongued Daniel (Luke Kirby), who had previously provoked her, in public, to flog a man as part of a historical re-enactment.  In the midst of a Canadian heat wave, the two have a heady chemistry spurred by a playful antagonism toward each other--a signal that there is attraction between them.  On arriving home, Margo discovers that Daniel is literally the boy next door, and she blurts out that she's married as they hesitantly part to their opposite sides of the street.  "Oh, that's too bad," Daniel replies.  They separate, but only temporarily as they repeatedly come together in a seductive "dance."

Margo is married to the solid, dependable Lou played by Seth Rogen with a gentle blending of humor and gravitas.  He's a cook writing a cookbook on how to cook chicken, and he loves Margo in a playful, puppy dog fashion.  Their relationship is companionable, but slightly off, conveying a distance that belies their five years together.  Daniel is the wrench in the works, the guy who makes Margo question everything she has, and everything that might be missing.

I have to admit that Daniel did not make my heart skip a beat in any way at first.  He seemed like a new sweater Margo might like trying on for a little bit, but nothing worth spending all her money (or her marriage) on.  Yet Polley expertly crafts two contrasting scenes of Margo with her two men: one has Margo and Daniel having martinis together, the other highlights Margo and Lou celebrating their five year anniversary at a nice restaurant. 

When Margo timidly, but directly asks Daniel "I want to know what you'd do to me," she provokes one of the most erotic conversations I've seen or heard in the cinema.  Daniel describes what he would "do to Margo" in intimate and glorious detail, and she is understandably moved by his creative vocabulary choices.  Yeah, I'm a feminist intellectual so words are hot, hot, hot.  This scene changed the temperature of the film for me completely.  Now Daniel had my attention.

In contrast, when Lou and Margo celebrate their anniversary, the awkwardness between them is loud and clear.  The fact that Daniel takes them for a free ride in his taxi/rickshaw as an anniversary present doesn't help matters.  Still, Polley shoots Margo's discomfort simultaneously with her desire as Margo's gaze moves hungrily over Daniel's body during the trip.  The above image hints toward the benign cluelessness Lou displays, oblivious to the tensions circulating around him.

At dinner, the two of them eat their food in silence.  When Margo haltingly asks Lou how things are going, he looks at her quizzically.  She attempts conversation, but Lou pointedly states that he doesn't have anything to say.  He sees Margo's disappointment, but can only respond by telling her that he loves her--he really does!  For Margo, his heartfelt sentiments are just not enough anymore.  Daniel is the match that restarted her fire.

Some of the scenes are so visually stunning that I cannot fully describe them here.  A "dance" between Daniel and Margo in an empty swimming pool is definitely one of the film's highlights.  Further, Sarah Silverman, like Rogen, proves that she is not just a funny girl, but a talented actress; Silverman, as Lou's sister Geraldine, wields her snarky comments like a defensive shield to cover over her substance abuse history and emotional pain. She's involved in a climactic scene towards the end of the film that brutally calls into question Margo's decisions.  Geraldine's passive aggression slips into just plain aggression as she carves out a painful place in Margo's heart.  The event that precipitates their encounter feels a little contrived, but the potent interaction between these two women is outstanding.  Polley astutely shows us that beloved "in-laws" can often become the casualties of troubled marriages, and that some decisions have far reaching repercussions for those seemingly on the periphery. 

I don't want to give away the decisions that Margo ultimately makes; she did surprise me, which is a testament to Polley's skilled storytelling.  While Polley does cinematically reveal some of Daniel's and Lou's subjective moments, the film's focus and heart belongs to Margo.  Spectators see through her eyes and viscerally feel her emotional struggles.  Polley is a woman director to watch, and she masterfully gives her woman character a distinctive voice and point-of-view.  Let's hope that Polley's star continues to rise.  She deserves the kinds of accolades that shower directors like Alexander Payne.  I eagerly await her next outing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What happened to Sookie??

If I was Charlaine Harris, I think I would be a little pissed.  Very wealthy, and pretty pleased about that, but a little angry about how Alan Ball and gang could turn my literary heroine, an independent, spirited, smart (and kind of ass-kicking) young woman into a whiny, self-pitying, and pathetic female character who almost every character on True Blood, and many of the show's fans, seriously hate.

Now this post isn't necessarily a rant about adaptation and medium.  I understand that a book and a television show are different mediums, and so stories are told very differently in those two areas.  Ball's series' cannot possibly replicate the first person narration that drives Harris's novels.  I get that.  Furthermore, a television series will unsurprisingly take a narrative in different directions, and those directions can be dictated by television stardom, ratings, and a show's budget.  (There's a reason why the Syfy network's version of Being Human looks so much better than the British version--more money equals better effects).

I've even become pretty entranced by Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin's beloved fantasy series, but I have almost no interest in reading those novels.  Everything I've read about his books suggests that the television show has greatly expanded some of the more thinly drawn and under-developed women's roles that are on display in Martin's series.  Part of the reason those roles can be deepened is because series television allows for the fleshing out of narrative and character over time.

So I'm not ranting that Charlaine Harris's books are so much better than the series, even if I think that they are.  What infuriates me about the show is that its central character, Sookie Stackhouse, is painted in a manner that makes her increasingly weak and ripe for humiliation.  For a little while I thought it might be Anna Paquin's portrayal of the character.  Maybe she's just not the greatest fit, what with her fake southern cadences and overly trembling lip.  But this week changed all that for me, and forced me to reflect on poor Sookie's transformation.

Just a little reminder to those of us who can barely remember Season one of True Blood; in the pilot episode, Sookie saves Bill.  In fact, she saves a lot of people throughout the first couple of seasons.  She is intrepid, courageous, and willing to fight for her friends (and sometimes for strangers).  She's not easily intimidated, and she's not afraid of the supernaturals in her midst.  This portrayal is not at odds with Harris's creation, and Ball and Co. are careful to allow Sookie the strength and fearlessness that are central to this woman character.  At least early on.

Fast forward to Season 5, episode 5 of True Blood, "Let's Boot and Rally."  To quickly recap, Sookie nearly dies when her "friend" Lafayette throws some ridiculous demon mojo on her car, and it becomes possessed and tries to kill her.  This event occurs after Lafayette tells Sookie that she's the Angel of Death and that everyone hates her (yeah, yeah, there's more to it than that, but I just don't have the patience to rehash the narrative lead up, okay).

Sookie's on her couch getting totally drunk and feeling tremendously sorry for herself when Alcide shows up; he's a hot werewolf.  They discuss various plot points that I don't want to get into, and they start making out.  Now Alcide is played by Joe Manganiello, who also has a role in Soderbergh's Magic Mike and is a real fan of taking his shirt off whenever possible.  This guy is cut.  Sookie utters some incredibly obnoxious line about how Alcide is in love with her, so she can make him do whatever she wants; this behavior is not cool, and places Sookie in a self-serving, manipulative light.  The scene implies that in Sookie's drunken state, she's showing her true colors, and they are not pretty.  To make matters worse, Bill and Eric are hanging around outside, voyeuristically watching and commenting on the action.  Ah, but things get even worse.

As Sookie unbuttons Alcide's fly, she then proceeds to throw up all over his feet.  Immediately thereafter, Bill and Eric are shown in her bedroom doorway, and Eric wryly comments, "Alcide, you sure know how to treat a lady."  Yep.

I suppose this scene is intended to be funny, but at that moment I hit pause and started ranting, and clearly I'm still angry.  How could an admirable woman character crafted so carefully by a woman writer become a cross between a pathetic laughingstock and a mean-spirited harpy?  Is HBO, with shows like Girls and Veep, now female humiliation central?  I have a long, long laundry list of complaints about True Blood, but I just don't want to spend my time going there.  What I will say is that while I respect Charlaine Harris's decision to let Ball & Co. take the show in their own directions, I would love it if she got resoundingly pissed and took them to task for transforming Sookie into this pathetic, unlikeable hot mess. GRRRRR.  Bring back a Sookie Stackhouse that one can respect and admire, okay?  Okay?!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

ANOTHER EARTH--Mike Cahill (2011)

Sometimes films sit in my Netflix queue a little too long, and they become sorely neglected (with 481 films and television shows listed, something's bound to be forgotten).  What's worse is if the DVD sits next to the TV too long; I'm on the 1 DVD plan at this point since their prices skyrocketed.  I have even sent films back because I was just not going to watch them (Sorry, Whale Rider).  I had read so many ambivalent reviews about Mike Cahill and Brit Marling's 2011 "sci-fi" film Another Earth, that it had been sitting around for a few weeks, forlorn and sad. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman listed it as one of the worst films of 2011 (he gave it a "D").  Well, I'm happy to say that I passionately disagree with him (as I always do), and Another Earth is heartfelt, thoughtful and visually stunning.  This film relies on delicate acting and moving imagery to take viewers on a journey that explores grief, guilt, forgiveness, and redemption.

In interviews, Marling states that she co-wrote the scripts for Another Earth and Sound of My Voice in order to give herself complicated, well-developed, and thoughtful lead women's roles.  She succeeds wildly in Another Earth, for the entire narrative is subjectively focalized through her character, Rhoda Williams.

To summarize, the film opens with Rhoda at a party, celebrating, at seventeen, her admission to the astrophysics program at MIT.  She's feeling like the world is hers for the taking, and as she's drunkenly driving home, the radio announces that "another earth" has just been discovered in the Earth's orbit.  As she looks out the window, gazing at the sky, she slams her car head-on into John Burroughs' vehicle, as he and his wife and son are stopped at a traffic light. Rhoda kills his family, lands John (William Mapother) in a coma, and she ends up spending the next four years in prison.  The majority of the film takes place after Rhoda's release, as she comes to terms with what she's done.

**Some soft spoilers are ahead, although I don't think that the pleasures of the film are affected by my divulging some of the plot.

Although Rhoda has been legally punished, nothing the penal system can do can compare to how she can punish herself.  The past four years have transformed her into an outcast, riddled by guilt and uncomfortable around others. She asks to be employed in some kind of manual labor, and is hired as a custodian at the West Haven high school (the film takes place in Connecticut, around New Haven and its environs).  Rhoda quietly skulks the hallways, pushing a giant cleaning cart and attempting to disappear inside herself.  Unfortunately, she cannot turn off her inner voices.

Rhoda revisits the scene of the accident on the 4th anniversary, only to see a truck pull up and John deposit a toy robot at the site.  This lonely roadside memento is a devastating reminder for her.  In typical cinematic fashion, Rhoda investigates online and discovers more about her victims, and the lives transformed by that night.  Suicide seems like an option, so she attempts to end her life by lying naked in the snow; alas, she wakes in the hospital with severe frostbite and hypothermia, unable to shake this mortal coil.

She heads to John's home to apologize to him. Rhoda finds him bedraggled and hopeless, slipping into alcoholism and depression like an overly warm blanket.  Instead of admitting her place in his family's destruction, she instead offers a free trial of cleaning and housekeeping, creating her fictional employment at a local maid service.  He invites her in for the trial, and so begins a complex, psychologically fraught relationship between the two that serves as the emotional backbone for the science fiction context swirling around them.

Rhoda's presence does seem to pull John back from the precipice, and he begins to make and play music again (he was formerly a Professor of Music at Yale).  One of the most stunning scenes in the film is when he takes Rhoda to an acoustically sophisticated performance space and plays the SAW.  Yes, you read that right.  He makes a saw sing.  I'd never heard anything like it, but the sounds that emit from this TOOL are simply amazing, mimicking the human voice while simultaneously suggesting other worlds.

The existence of other worlds, especially another Earth, constantly presses on these characters as news and radio broadcasts discuss the presence of an Earth that is the mirror image of our home planet.  When a woman NASA scientist, Joan Tallis, attempts to make contact with this "other" Earth, she ends up literally talking to herself, sharing the same memories, upbringing, and experiences from the past with a Joan Tallis on the other Earth.

 Immediately, you can see where this film is headed, although in a subtle, reserved fashion rather than the usual science fiction bludgeoning one might experience regrading these philosophical quandaries.  Some scientists suggest that the moment that the other Earth was discovered their planetary synchronicity was disrupted, and that lives may have shifted during that causal event. In other words, the accident that occurred on our earth may not have happened on the other one.

The fact that Rhoda wins a contest to journey to the other Earth is perhaps the most contrived part of the narrative's trajectory, but on the whole, it works, and allows the characters to get to places emotionally that they may not have reached otherwise.  Rhoda ultimately makes an unsurprising sacrifice that brings her closer to finding some semblance of peace.  Still, the film provides a nice little twist at the end that highlights its profundity and thoughtfulness.

Another Earth is small and quiet, but resonates long after its beautiful images fade.  Some of the film's ideas were explored masterfully in seasons three and four of Fringe, but that show has the rhythms of science fiction series television.  This film is an hour and a half of well-constructed cinematic bliss.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where's the MAGIC, MIKE?

Channing Tatum, aka Mike, knows how to move his hips. Seriously, this guy can dance, and every hetero woman knows the importance of rhythm as a skill set (not so much a "method"). I had a girlfriend visiting me this weekend, and in a moment of silliness, we decided to go to the movies on a weekend night for the 9:50pm showing of Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike. Since I never go to see films on the weekend, I was expecting a bunch of raucous drunk women cheering on the male strippers, talking throughout the whole screening, and basically going nuts.  Sorry, ladies. I misjudged your propriety.  Indeed, the audience was largely women, but they were well behaved, although there's not a lot to get all CRAZY about here. Soderbergh was duly respectful toward his male actors, which made this film an interminable and crushing BORE. Yes, a movie about men taking off their clothes was boring as hell and barely sexy. Sigh.

One of the chief problems with Magic Mike is its uncertain tone. The film has moments where it seems to be sensitively dealing with the United States unemployment crisis. Mike legitimately struggles, while working several jobs--construction, automobile detailing, stripping--to save for his dream of running his own custom furniture business. He tries to get a small business bank loan, but he has neither the credit rating, nor the start-up funds, to do so (even though he has a spiffy, spiral bound business plan). Building furniture is Mike's dream, although one does not get any sense that he has any talent or skills whatsoever beyond shaking his booty. (He has a photo in his "business plan" of a custom table--it's a piece of glass perched atop a bunch of fire hydrants, or fire extinguishers--I'm not sure which, but both equally stupid-looking). So Soderbergh's working the aspirational "American Dream" narrative.

Meanwhile, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is a nineteen-year-old guy looking for work, who meets Mike on a construction site. He lives with his "uptight" sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), who is some kind of medical professional-in-training. All these people are looking for happiness in Tampa (good luck finding anything but crazy trouble in the F-state). By some film structured narrative "accident," Mike ends up introducing Adam to the stripping world, and he takes to it like a stripper takes to, an, erm, pole. So now there's a coming of age, mentoring relationship, possible love interest for Mike (with Brooke) thrown into the mix.

Then we come to the important part: the stripping. I'm sorry, but that's what all the women in the theater came to see. Not Mike struggling to make ends meet. Not a possible romance with some uptight woman. Not the corruption of a young guy struggling to find himself.  NAKED GUYS GYRATING!

The Village People 2012
See where the camera sits in the above shot? The audience is kept at quite a distance from the action.  Then look again at the gifs that I posted above.  That's it.  No close-ups of glistening skin, jutting hip bones, eyes closed in ecstasy.  Sure there were images of these guys interacting with women, giving them lap dances and grinding up against them, but always, always from a distance. The camerawork was purposely untitillating, often showing the bodies of the sexual women in the film far more than the men.  Amazing and disappointing.

I was so incredibly struck by how differently the stripping scenes were shot from ANY OTHER film representing female nudity and/or strippers. WTF?! Was there some kind of clause in the contracts of these actors stating that they refuse to be "exploited" through the use of close-ups?? Both Flashdance and Striptease had more to offer in sexiness than this tepid enterprise, even though all three films share some narrative similarities (character w/dream and financial problems strips to get closer to said dream).

Alas, most of the stripping scenes were played for laughs rather than for eroticism's sake. Scenes were shot in rapid montage, with no camera time spent exploring bodies or a character's sensuality.  This attitude confused the film's tone, since Tatum's scenes were really actually QUITE hot for being brief and from far away. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the other actors in the Xquisite Male Revue, who cannot dance "for shit" as Matthew McConaughey's character Dallas reminds us. Frankly, he can't either, but I appreciate his willingness to strut around like a greased monkey with ass-less chaps and a thong for extended portions of the film. Now I've got to see Killer Joe so I can wipe this portrayal out of my mind.

Granted, in our culture male sexual objectification is not some simple reversal of roles, but one would think that Soderbergh would at least TRY. He had no problem shooting Porn Star Sasha Grey in numerous close-ups for The Girlfriend Experience (2009).  Articulating what a hetero female gaze might entail is no simple matter, but at least an attempt to manipulate some of the visual codes used in sexual or sensual materials would be a step in the right direction. Ultimately, on the sexual front, the film's parade of images are few and far between, and more time is spent on Mike's existential angst.

I believe that the film's confused tone ultimately leads to its failure. The camp moments are there, but are tempered by scenes where the audience is supposed to sympathize with Mike's plight.  Tatum's got a great body and he can really move, but I'm sorry, after watching this guy, I really do not understand why anyone ever complained about Keanu Reeves.

Tatum's pouty lips and furrowed brow convey high levels of blankness, and his line delivery...well, if they wanted him to come off like an illiterate doofus, his portrayal is actually kind of spot on in its "nobody at home up there" duh cadences.

This film is not a playful "romp." In fact, the film devolves into a rather moralistic and judgmental look at male strippers and their world--one riddled with narcissism, drug and alcohol addiction, oodles of meaningless sex and greed. Actually, the film's moral tone reminded me of Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, which starts out suggesting that drugs are kind of fun, and then devolves into the worst "Just Say NO" commercial ever. One ends up feeling bludgeoned into "stripping is bad" mode by film's end.

**For an excellent take on how problematic this moral tone is, check out Anne Helene Peterson's site on the film's marketing toward women audiences. Also, be sure to read some of her articles on Tatum for an alternative and sophisticated take on his acting.

The only way for Mike to actually experience "magic," is for him to **SPOILER** turn his back on stripping, and come up with a new "game plan" with Brooke, who would only give him the time of day in the film's last moments when he gives up his stripper ways. This change happens, literally, in the last 30 seconds of the film. Ugh. Eye roll. 

Now I'm definitely someone who often rails against the idea that stripping is ultimately "empowering" for women.  Perhaps it is empowering for individual women who are able, through genetics or surgical means, to replicate the beauty ideal that is required in order to make a decent living as a stripper or sex worker. But when it comes to women as a GROUP, this vocation is far from empowering since it replicates some of the same sexist structural problems that have been encroaching on women for centuries. Making a film that stars popular male actors, and deals with the business from a masculine standpoint, could make for some really smart commentary on sex work and gender.

This shot is strictly promotional and not even in the film
Magic Mike's visual representations, narrative construction, and moral tone do nothing to undermine or unpack any of the gender stereotypes regarding sexual images and sexy bodies. One might be able to excuse this kind of failure if the film was just dumb fun, full of gratuitous nudity and sexy guys taking their clothes off.  Unfortunately, the film's bait and switch is just another rip-off, as at least an hour of the film is spent exploring Mike's problems, as if anyone went to see the film for THAT reason.  It feels like Soderbergh was still concerned about the straight male audience, of which he is a member, and so the film flops just like a giant limp dick.  Boo.

**Oops, almost forgot. This article with Tatum gyrating in a gif everywhere is freakin' hilarious.