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Because one retrospective at a time just isn't enough, I'm also taking a look at the Disney Princess movies. ALL the Disney Princess movies, in chronological order, over an undisclosed period of time. I've also started posting reviews for some of the Star Wars books over at the library, so the first of those is here. I want this journal to be more active and do at least two or three posts a month. I know that's not super-active, but I'm learning.

Anyway!

The reason I'm doing the Disney Princess thing is I want to take a closer look at some of the criticisms and assumptions I've seen floating around out there about what sort of fantasy role models and heroes we have for young girls. So the obvious choice is to look at the fantasy role models I had as a young girl, and what they look like to me now that I'm older. My main questions/talking points are: Who is the main character and what values do they embody? & Is romance/marriage the driving plot or the goal?

Since this is the first post in the retrospective, I'm starting at the beginning.

Q: What's black and white and red all over?

A: Snow White. Also Goth chicks. Surprisingly, these two things aren't unrelated.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the first of the Disney Princesses, and the first feature-length animated film ever made. This isn't one of the movies I watched over and over as a kid, and the parts I remembered before rewatching it mostly involved the Queen and how frighteningly relentless she is. I'm glad the live action reboot didn't forget that, and managed to make the Queen even more awesome. Snow White, on the other hand, is both the least interesting character and the most fascinating archetype of all the Princesses. Today, I'm focusing on how we went from this:



To this:



I want...my prince to come.Collapse )

Next time: Cinderella (1950)
Episode IV: From Farm Boy to Rebel Fighter (A New Hope)

Hey guys! As I mentioned before, I'm doing the Ernist Rister order for this rewatch. Since it's numbered weird, I'll list "Part X" in the title to indicate where I am in the rewatch, list the "episode" number in a sub-heading, and do a wrap-up summary of "The Story So Far" each time to keep from getting lost. There will be Unmarked Spoilers all over the place, so tread carefully if you're one of the few people who hasn't seen these movies.

I'm also rereading the novelizations of all six movies, in the same order, at the same time. I've read them before except for The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, so what I'm hoping is I'll be able to share more background stuff that wasn't in the movies, comment on how things change when they're added back in with the re-edits of the original trilogy, and how it affects the characters' journeys. For this entry, I'm gonna focus on our establishing character moments by looking specifically at two of them: Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

Yes, I'm watching the re-edits this time, because I have Points to make regarding story structure, pacing, and character development. Also, I cheated and watched the theatrical version of A New Hope beforehand. Oops. But what's interesting about that is, since it's been almost twenty years since I watched the director's cuts of any of these movies, I'm looking at it sort of fresh. There was a lot that I'd forgotten about the re-edits and exactly how things changed, and while it's extremely disorienting the first time you see it--rather like someone has invaded all your childhood memories and rearranged the furniture when you weren't looking--it's actually not that bad. Well, not this one anyway.

Let's do this!


(Image taken from Giphy.)


The Story So Far:
Young Luke Skywalker, after stumbling across a mysterious plea for help from the beautiful Princess Leia, gets tangled up in the Rebellion against the Empire. In the process, he loses his only family--his aunt and uncle, who raised him--but befriends Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, space pirate Han Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca, and the captured Leia . . . only to discover Leia can pretty much rescue herself. Because she's awesome. He witnesses Kenobi's murder by Darth Vader, the Sith Lord who also killed his father (or so he's been told), and joins the Rebellion. Finally, after the rest of his strike team is killed or incapacitated, he (with Han's help) destroys the Death Star battle station and is welcomed back as a hero. Vader, however, survives.

Meet Your Heroes...Collapse )

(Cross-posted to rhoda_rants.)

Star Wars: The Fangirl Awakens

So hey, look at that, it's not March anymore! And it's DEFINITELY not February anymore. What happened? I'll tell you: I didn't finish my retrospective. Surprise! I'll tell you what else though: I kinda felt like I was biting off more than I could chew, trying to cover ten years in that time span. So I'm going to leave the Box Office Retrospective at 2010 for now, and come back with the next five years for the next Women In Horror / Women's History Month in 2016. Sound good? Good.

That in mind, I'd like to return to my Film of the Book series soon, since I finally got a chance to see Gone Girl and it's every bit as brilliant as you've heard. I also saw both The Maze Runner and Seventh Son, which were varying degrees of ridiculous and try-too-hard, but surprisingly enjoyable despite--or perhaps because of--those things. I'll expand on that later.

But first, I need to talk about something more important to me than box office numbers, badass women in horror movies, or even vampires.

I need to talk about Star Wars.

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WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2010

Happy International Women's Day! My retrospective is still topical! WOOO!

This was an intriguing year for horror. Pickings were slim this year, but there's an overall uptick in quality that started in the late 2000s, after we got tired of torture porn and remaking stuff from Japan and Korea. (Although remaking stuff from the '70s is still an issue.) Also, with David Slade at the helm for the third entry in the Twilight saga, we got some actual terror, tension, and action thrown into the mix along with the romance, and Melissa Rosenberg did such a solid job with the script that the line reads are intentionally funny in all the right places.

Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $300.5 million
Black Swan - $106.9 million
Paranormal Activity 2 - $84.7 million
(A Nightmare On Elm Street - $63 million)
Resident Evil: Afterlife - $60.1 million
The Last Exorcism - $41 million
The Crazies - $39.1 million
(Vampires Suck - $36.7 million)

As I said, we didn't get much, but what we did get was truly unnerving and truly above the bar. I'm talking, of course, about Black Swan.

Read more. . .Collapse )

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2009

Since I'm me, I figured it would probably take longer than just the whole of February to get through this project of mine. And here we are, only up to 2009, and it's the last day. So I made a decision: I'm gonna plow ahead and go through 2014 anyway, and we'll see where we end up. Cool? Cool.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon - $296.6 million
Paranormal Activity - $107.9 million
(Zombieland - $75.6 million)
(The Final Destination - $66.5 million)
(My Bloody Valentine - $51.5 million)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - $45.8 million
The Unborn - $42.7 million
Drag Me to Hell - $42.1 million
Orphan - $41.6 million
(Halloween 2 - $33.4 million)
(The Last House on the Left - $32.7 million)

Finally, some fresh blood! Not much, but it's there in the top end--where it counts. Still not a lot of diversity in the casting, unfortunately, but things are getting . . . interesting.

Read more.Collapse )

So, we seem to have not only a wealth of truly original stories here--and this isn't even counting stuff that didn't make the cut, like Jennifer's Body and Thirst and Dead Snow--but an emphasis on "twist" endings that I honestly did not expect. So here's a question: when is a movie only as good as its ending? Are you the kind of moviegoer who likes to watch things over and over, like me? Or do you feel satisfied having only gone through it the one time? If you do like rewatching, does knowing the ending beforehand make the rewatch more interesting, or less? If you're the kind of person who's good at guessing twists, does it "ruin" the ending for you, or do you still feel like you get something out of it?

Curious minds want to know! Tell me your thoughts in the comments, and I will see you in March with 2010!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2008

Once more, I'm in the awkward position of NOT being able to talk about some amazing movies that also came out this year, and have become cult favorites in the aftermath of their initial release--Martyrs, Splinter, Repo! The Genetic Opera, Let the Right One In, The Midnight Meat Train--all because they did not meet various of my criteria.

Twilight - $192 million
(The Strangers - $52.6 million)
(Prom Night - $43.9 million)
(The Changeling - $35.7 million)
(Quarantine - $32 million)
(The Eye - $31.4 million)

Remakes were big this year too, but mostly foreign imports, (there are more that didn't break the box office, by the way), whereas before this the big remakes had been a mix of foreign imports and retreads of old classics. Whether you count the original Prom Night as a "classic" is up for debate I guess, but that's the one that surprised me the most. As for Changeling, I'm actually not sure if it's a remake of the 1980 movie with George C. Scott or a completely original story.

Read more...Collapse )I'm a bit at a loss for what to ask this time. Since I have been noticing so many remakes, and this trend doesn't seem to stopping anytime soon, I might as well mention: sometimes the remake can be better than the original. Not always, but it does happen. It's certainly the case with The Thing--both the Kurt Russell version and the Mary Elizabeth Winstead version. I wouldn't go that far for the ones on this list, but let me ask: What remake pleasantly surprised you, either by being not as bad as you feared, or actually surpassing the original? What movie do you think would benefit from a reboot, even if you're close to the original? What remakes do you think should never have happened?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments, and I'll try not to let so much time pass before 2009!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2007

This was a frustrating year to work with, because so many movies that I'd rather talk about fell outside the parameters I set for this project. Such as movies that grossed somewhere in the $20 million range (Grindhouse, The Reaping), movies that had either a very limited release or went straight to video (Trick 'r Treat, Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door), or were big overseas but never had a theatrical release in the US (Inside, [REC]).

Here's what did fall inside my parameters:

(Halloween - $63.3 million)
Resident Evil: Extinction - $50.6 million
(Aliens vs. Predator - Requiem - $41.8 million)
The Messengers - $35.4 million

So I'm slightly annoyed. But like I said in my introduction, these are what packed the theaters, and that's not always the mark of quality. For the record, the highest-grossing horror movie this year was I Am Legend, at $256.4 million. Now, it's not lost on me that, this being February, it's also Black History Month, and somehow I Am Legend is the first movie I've so much as mentioned with a black protagonist. The fact that it's Will Smith, who comes with his own box-office-friendly fanbase no matter what he stars in, isn't lost on me either. I'm stretching my own rules (grossed over $30 million domestically AND starring a woman) bringing him into the discussion at all. That bothers me. I'll come back to this in the Honorable Mention.

Moving on...Collapse )

Here is one of the trickiest things about being a fan of horror movies: no matter how many awesome characters you get, you can never be sure until the credits roll whether they'll survive. The reason the Women In Horror project exists, and the reason Black History Month exists, are because representation and visibility are lacking for both of them. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but have the numbers actually gone down since the turn of the century? We like to think that as the years progress, we're automatically progressing in other ways too, but I don't believe that's true. We have to keep having these conversations, and really look at what the trends are doing from one year to the next, to see if anything's changing. Not to mention, even with the female characters I've managed to find so far, I still haven't found many female or POC screenwriters and directors. I might be able to draw a more solid conclusion when I get to the end of the month, but what do you guys think? How far have we come? Are we still moving forward, or have we taken several steps back? Also, going back to one of my previous questions, since this is a niche genre we're talking about, when you do find feature films that tell the stories of minorities and women, why is it so hard to find them in the top box office spots?

Just some food for thought. Share your opinions with me in the comments, and I'll be back with 2008 next time!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2006

When I started tallying up numbers, one of the first things I noticed is that horror cinema with female protagonists from the past ten years has been completely dominated by four franchises: Resident Evil, Underworld, Twilight*, and Paranormal Activity. They all started at slightly different times, and they're all catering to a slightly different audience demographic, so I find it interesting that they've all been as wildly successful as they have for as long as they have. And they're all still going. That's a substantial amount of sustained marketability, all starring women.

*I know, save your garment rending. I have a reason for including it on this list, and I'll get to it later. First, the top money-makers with female protagonists for 2006:

Underworld: Evolution - $62.3 million
The Omen - $54.6 million
(Final Destination 3 - $54.1 million)
When a Stranger Calls - $47.9 million
Silent Hill - $47 million
(The Hills Have Eyes - $41.8 million)
(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning - $39.5 million)
The Grudge 2 - $39 million
Pan's Labyrinth - $37.6 million

Again, lots of remakes and sequels, and a fair few I haven't seen. In fact, there are only two original stories in this year's lineup, and I'm almost not sure they qualify--Silent Hill because it's technically an adaptation, and Pan's Labyrinth because I'm not sure it counts as "horror." But we're going to talk about them anyway, because it's my retrospective and I Do What I Want.

Read more...Collapse )

The reason I decided to include Pan's Labyrinth in the end (apart from the fact that I asked Twitter for input), is because I tend to be a bit more generous than some when drawing the line between "horror" and "fantasy" and "sci-fi." For me, it doesn't matter that much because I watch all three genres for the same reasons: I want to be taken out of my comfort zone. I want to question my perception of reality. I want to see ordinary people transform into heroes when faced with impossible circumstances. I want to see worlds and creatures I've never seen or imagined before. Mostly, I want to be entertained. If I happen to get scared out of my wits in the process, as long as those other criteria are met, I'm okay with that. But I'm also okay if a movie calling itself "horror" doesn't actually manage to scare me.

So here's my question for this post: Where do you draw the line between "horror" and other genres? Do you come away disappointed if a horror movie doesn't scare you, or do you watch it for other reasons--and if so, what are those reasons?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments, and I'll be back next time with 2007!

WiHM, Box Office Retrospective: 2005

WiHM 2015, Box Office Retrospective: 2005

First, an explanation: I'm listing the year-end domestic box office gross of the most successful horror movies with female leads of each respective year in this retrospective. I'm using a combination of BoxOfficeMojo.com, The-Numbers.com, and IMDB to arrive at these numbers, with an arbitrary cut-off at $30 million to count as "successful." I could try to average everything out to see the overall take globally, and/or compare the gross against the budget to see which films are raking in a decent profit, but that would require me to Math, and nobody wants that.

If a movie is in (parentheses), that means I haven't seen it and can't quite figure out who the protagonist is from the cast listing and plot summary.

I'll be briefly discussing my thoughts on a few of these movies, but in broad strokes so as to avoid spoilers.

Shall we?

(Saw II - $86.8 million)
The Ring Two - $75.8 million
The Exorcism of Emily Rose - $75.1 million
The Amityville Horror - $65.2 million
Red Eye - $57.9 million
Hide and Seek - $51.1 million
The Skeleton Key - $47.8 million
(House of Wax - $32 million)

Read more...Collapse )

Throughout this retrospective, I'd like to keep in mind that horror fans (well, geeky types in general, really) tend to latch onto things that aren't necessarily at the top of the queue in critical or commercial circles. So, what movies stood out for you this year? What did the box office overlook that should've seen more love? What were some of your favorite performances/monsters/things that scared you/made you think?

Let me know in the comments, and I'll be back with 2006 next time!

Women in Horror Month 2015 - Introduction

Now that we've all had some time to recover from Halloween, let's get revved up for another Women In Horror Month! Last year, I took a look at some box office numbers to see what the genre looks like right now. And first of all, let me apologize. I don't remember what search engine I was using to get those numbers, but I clearly did something wrong because I somehow overlooked World War Z, The Purge and Warm Bodies while gathering my data, which should have bumped half my original contenders off the list. It's still a pretty cool list, but I'll get back to that later.

So this year, instead of looking at just one year's box office results, I decided to look at the overall trends since 2005. The reason I'm focusing squarely on box office numbers is because money and audience demand are what drive the industry. Nothing gets changed if the status quo isn't challenged in a recognizable way. And for better or worse, looking at box office numbers is a way to quantify what people wanted to see in a given year. Otherwise, I'd just be talking about my own personal tastes, and while I'll never stop recommending cool, under-the-radar stuff like Stoker, We Are What We Are and The Moth Diaries, that's not the point of this project.

Whenever I get excited about a new short story collection/TV show/movie/book with positive female representation either in the characters or behind the scenes, inevitably someone makes the argument that it's not enough that women be present in this type of media. It has to also be good, high-quality, intelligent, thoughtful media. Now, I don't have any problem with asking for good quality stuff, but I feel like this argument is asking for female creators and characters to be that much "better" than their male counterparts in order to make up for the fact that they're female. Which I don't think is fair. Get them into the rotation in the first place, and we can worry about whether they're awesome enough to deserve their places later. More to the point: horror fans in general, myself included, sometimes develop a taste for really appalling, cheesy, low-grade trash. I don't want to see that stuff go away. It is awesome in its own way. If the boys are allowed to have their cheese and eat it too, then dammit, so should we.

I asked Twitter and Absolute Write who were their favorite Horror Heroines prior to 2005, just to get a starting baseline. Here are the top 5 results, in descending order from most chosen to least:

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Alien
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), Halloween
Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), Silence of the Lambs
Alice (Milla Jovovich), Resident Evil
Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), A Nightmare on Elm Street

These are the golden oldies, the ones we've looked up to and cheered on for decades--with no leading on my part, and no parameters specifying any particular definition of "heroine." And I gotta say, Alice surprised me. I didn't realize she was so well-loved, since she's the relative newcomer to the lineup here. I also thought Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, Terminator) would get more votes--when I started asking, she was only mentioned once. This is all very informal of course, and my sample pool is very small, so the net I'm liable to cast isn't but so wide.

Still, here's my question: Who are the new Horror Heroines? Who have we, the viewing public, deemed worthy successors to the badass, monster-fighting ladies of yore? And who does the horror community, always with its ear to the ground for cool, under-the-radar stuff, wish more people knew about and celebrated?

The results might surprise you. Stay tuned, and I'll be back with the numbers from 2005 next time!

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