STOP TALKING ABOUT DADS.

Yes! A hot take! Bear with me, though, because I have a lot of very honest questions. (Also, you really don’t have to stop talking about dads. Just know I won’t understand unless you’re telling me how awesome your dad is. My dad is great, I feel you.)

I’ve been seeing the dadness phenomenon manifest itself on my Twitter timeline, and continue to manifest itself after the one day I had predicted it would take for it to bore everyone, and so I’ve been very confused about it. I’m in the peculiar position of being a European following an almost exclusively US and Canada-based group of people on Twitter (being that none of my real-life friends bar one actively use it), while not being particularly invested in the US news cycle. I can only tell you this is an incredibly weird and sometimes alienating experience: at least once a day, I find myself suddenly in the midst of a conversation that seems to have started in medias res, and seemingly out of nowhere, though everyone on my TL evidently knows what’s going on and how they feel about it. (The Jinx, oh my god. The Jinx. For hours, I thought Fred Durst had gone on a killing spree.) Dadness happened to me exactly like this. I still don’t know from whence it sprung, or why, or whether dad jokes, dad bods, and other assorted attributes of conceptual dadness are as hot a topic in the brunch locales of America as they are on its internet (this is not shade, I’m just told Americans brunch a lot). All I know is that I feel weird about it.

For starters, I’m kind of wondering what it means that we all suddenly get to be into dadbod, specifically. It feels suspicious because, at least on the internet, the big conversation about women’s appreciation of men’s bodies is now not about men’s bodies but about dads, and because dads are talked about like they exist in a sort of weird vacuum that other men are excluded from. Because, really, why is it that we apparently feel so much less conflicted (and so much more smug) about being into dads than about being into any other kind of man? (I mean, let’s acknowledge the vast exception of fandoms here, but I feel like that is almost a given, and I also feel like the dadbod convo is happening very resolutely outside of fandom spaces.) I’ve developed a few half-baked theories about The Dad Conversation, which I will now unleash on you:

Dads are safe to be attracted to and talk cooingly about because???:

  • We conceive of dads as kind of emasculated, and so we feel less conflicted about wanting to bang a tool of the patriarchy? (Awkward.)
  • Dadness as a concept involves being bumbling and endearing, which makes being attracted to dadbods also harmless and endearing, instead of rampantly sexual and potentially threatening to male equilibrium? (Awkward.)
  • Normcore? (Sorry: awkward.)
  • The established hip young men of the internet are aging, and we are surprised we’re still attracted to them? We must find an explanation for this that is specifically rooted in dadness because otherwise attraction and dadness are mutually exclusive? (Because dads are emasculated?) (Awkward.)
  • Dads are family men and thus have some kind of emotional or moral substance, and so liking dads means that our sexual desire also has some emotional or moral substance? (Please don’t be the case. I hope everyone into the dadbod feels cool thinking about sex without justifying it. I’m doing it RIGHT NOW.)
  • Being super sculpted actually means you put a lot of effort into your looks and so, in a shocking twist, dads are the real men because they don’t groom as much, and so our apparent low standards in fact mean that we like Real Men? (Aaaaaaaawkwaaaaaarrrrddddd.)
  • You’re already imagining all the hot sex you will have even after you have children, and feel confident you will still laugh at your partner’s jokes? (I like this explanation, but: does the dad need to be the focus here? Get yours!)
  • Edit! Edit! I’m adding one! It was just pointed out to me that the dadbod is supposed to make women feel like their own bodies won’t be judged as harshly. In response to this, aside from “awkward” and “I’m so sorry, you are beautiful,” I can only say: #Gamergate. There is nothing a homely man will feel entitled to more than a decidedly unhomely, but not too confident, woman.

To be honest, the purpose of this post is pretty much to see if anybody wants to hash out their thoughts about the recent uptick in dad obsession with me, because I am lost at sea and to make it worse it’s a sea of fucking dads. Of all the boring ass things! Someone throw me a line.

Femina Ridens Round Table: Kamome Diner (2006)

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Where are we welcome? On a quiet street in Helsinki, Sachie has opened a diner featuring rice balls. For a month she has no customers. Then, in short order, she has her first customer, meets Midori, a gangly Japanese tourist, and invites her to stay with her, and meets Masako, a formal and ethereal middle-aged woman whose luggage has gone missing. The three women work in the diner, interact, and serve customers. A somewhat brusque man teaches Sachie to make delicious coffee, then he returns under other circumstances. Three neighborhood women inspect the empty diner every day; will anything bring them inside? We learn why Sachie serves rice balls; but why Finland?
– IMDb plot summary

Maaike: Hi everyone! I’m super excited to discuss Naoko Ogigami’s Kamome Diner (aka Kamome Shokudo, aka Ruokala Lokki) with you all. It was hard to come up with discussion questions other than “Isn’t this film amazing?” (isn’t it, though?) but I’ve done my best to formulate a few. I’d love to hear about anything else that stood out to you or interested you about the film, too!
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THINGS WE CURRENTLY LOVE: MARCH EDITION

March gladness continues here with this month’s edition of Things We Currently Love.

Emily

♥ In the last month I’ve fallen completely in love with Teuvo Tulio’s melodramas. Working in Finland in the 1940s and 1950s, he made a series of films so gorgeous and devastating that I legitimately can’t believe they aren’t well known and widely celebrated. As it is, discovering them feels like being inducted into a secret cult of exquisite suffering. Like many melodramas, Tulio’s films explore the lives of women caught in the strictures of a violently patriarchal society, and his stories are anchored in raw, astonishing performances by actresses like Marie-Louise Fock and Regina Linnanheimo. On top of this, the films are made with deliriously beautiful chiaroscuro lighting; masterful, often experimental editing; and an almost operatic use of music (particularly in Sellaisena kuin sinä minut halusit [The Way You Wanted Me], in which the plot is driven by the recurring melody of a Finnish folk song). I originally heard about Tulio from this amazing post on overlooked melodramas by visualtraining on Tumblr (via the ever-spectacular giallolooks) and now I can’t wait to explore the rest of the list.

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Marie-Louise Fock in The Way You Wanted Me (1944)

♥ Writing my recent post on Louise Brooks (and seeing her in 1928’s Beggars of Life at the Silent Revue, the screening that originally occasioned the post itself) has made me fall deeply in love with her all over again. If left to my own devices, I would never have written about Brooks–thinking, basically, “what more is there to say?”–but in being given the opportunity to highlight her on the Revue blog and really asking myself that question, I think I was able to figure out what it is about Brooks that makes her so compelling to me now, years after I originally fell for her. Seeing her incandescent performance in Beggars of Life later that week on the big screen was the icing on the cake, and a true pleasure. An “outtake” that didn’t make it into my essay is that Brooks was notorious in each place she lived for taking books out from the public library and marking them up with her annotations (she said, in her later years, that “I am the only woman who ever gave up men for the public library”). In Rochester, many of these books were later stolen by Brooks acolytes; the books Brooks owned (likewise heavily annotated) are now held by the Eastman House and can be consulted there. I also delight in Brooks’s characteristically bitchy assessment of Anita Loos’s memoirs: that “she could have written the greatest history of Hollywood and winds up listing all the very tall men she didn’t go to bed with.” Having read Loos’s memoirs for a previous post, I can attest that though this is not entirely accurate, it is also not not accurate. I love both of these women for their work as Hollywood’s unreliable narrators.

♥ My boyfriend sent me this short video of early electronic musician Suzanne Ciani discussing her production of music and sound effects for the pinball game Xenon in 1980, and it’s a masterpiece on so many levels. From the plummy narrator intoning how “mahvelous” it is that in our electronic future we will be able to regrow “entire limbs,” to seeing Ciani at work composing music (programming with a flawless manicure), to watching her give the computer a female voice that talks back, I love it all so much.

Julia

March and November are two months I have no particular fondness for. I find them grey, dreary and endless, a strange stasis between seasons, bad bookends of winter. So to take the time to reflect on what makes me happy in this generally unpleasant month is a good thing.

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The Morrin Centre. Years after having first visited the Morrin Centre in my beautiful city, I am now officially a member. I spent a sleep-deprived, dazed Thursday afternoon there, the sun streaming through the beautiful windows, casting shadows on century old books and painted wooden statues of colonial heroes. So many French-speaking Quebeckers have never even heard of it, and since the Old City has become ghettoized by the Disneyfication of it all, so it remains a quiet hidden gem. It’s my favourite place to bring tourists when they come to my city!

I’ve already been 3 times in the month of March, and just discovered their amazing collection of graphic novels. I love their old shit, too. I shared some photos on my Flickr page here.

Hazlitt’s The Arcade is quickly becoming the number one source of inspiration when it comes to which book i choose to pick up next. Prior to that, it had been Wachtel on the Arts (omg her interview with) I’ve never read Andrew O’Hagan’s fiction – I waded into the intense abandoned biography of Julian Assange but never finished it – but I don’t think that affects your potential appreciation of his discussion with host Anshuman Iddamsetty. The Arcade podcast is totally my fav. I relate to a lot of what Anshuman has to say about his relationship to poetry, which is extra intriguing to me given I am married to a poet. My poet is often put in a position where he has to defend, explain, rationalize his work and it makes me think a lot about the power of words. These two, the way they discuss, reminds me of the beauty of words, of explaining atrocities, of understanding the world through art. So good! But instead of reading my thoughts about it you should listen to it and then tweet at me about it.

This music. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve still pretty much been listening to O Paon on repeat for the last month, but only one of her songs is featured in this mix. I have lost of the habit of really crafting music mixes, but made one for my wonderful friend Morgan’s birthday and remembered how satisfying it is to share my mixes online. I’m hoping to make a less dreary one come spring, but if you want to wallow in the endless winter you should make this your soundtracks.

Maddy

♥ Heidi Julavits’ The Vanishers
With a renewed library card I’ve been trying to read more and more contemporary fiction. The results have been middling, and for the first time in years I’ve been giving up on a record number of books. It’s mostly me – I haven’t been in a mood to push through anything. Thankfully Heidi Julavits’ The Vanishers has caught me and I have no interest in letting go. I’m always impressed with world building, and Julavits has constructed a complex but deeply interesting one. What’s struck me the most, which also happens to be an intersection on all of my interests, are the titular vanishers. A company has created the option for people to abandon their lives. We’ve been told they’re given a new life, and with the constant referring to and leave nothing but a brief film explaining themselves. A filmic object that’s a sort-of-but-not-actually suicide note is something I’ve been constantly thinking about. There’s a lot more to Julavits’ work than that, but it’s struck a chord that I can’t shake.

♥ GrayIMG_20150314_140358934
It is deeply Canadian of me to be so preoccupied with the weather, but the past few days have been gray gray gray. It’s unusual for the morning fog stay longer than a few hours, but it’s been here all day. I went for a walk along the lake on Sunday, and couldn’t even see the open waters next to me. With the weather a bit warmer, but not warm enough to bring people out in droves, the dreary gray that comes before spring is something to dissolve into. This mood has translated into everything else I do – my instagram has become gray, it’s all that I’m wearing, and I keep walking around my apartment thinking of where to put gray objects on prominent display. The sun might shake this mood, but I’m happy to be surrounded by it.

♥ Water, Wind, Dust (Amir Naderi, 1989)
This film is more along the taupe lines than gray, but I’m deeply interested in large areas of land that are inhospitable to humans. Naderi’s film is about a young man wandering around a desert as the winds beat at him, and everything about him. I was lucky to see it in 35mm, but the print was so old and scratched it was as if the wind in the film ended up tearing away at the physical film documenting it. Unintentional, but perfect.

Maaike

♥ The Jean Desmet exhibit at EYE Amsterdam: I’ve been so excited about this: an exhibit built around the collection of Jean Desmet, film distributor in the Netherlands from 1906-1916. I had to wait far too long for time and money to visit, but have by now seen it twice, and will probably go again. The exhibit itself, which mainly focuses on Desmet’s film collection, is practically a work of art (and quite overwhelming), with a wealth of breathtaking shorts and fragments on show, as well as some fantastic posters other ephemera of the film distributing trade. Being a fanatic, I’ll probably be clutching the catalogue to my chest on my death bed, but I think people who are new to silent film would also do well to check out this look into the wildly inventive and entertaining world of early cinema.

♥ Parsifal: I’ve been herheim parsifalcommuning with my favourite performances of my favourite Wagner opera, in anticipation (SO MUCH ANTICIPATION) of the Berlin premiere of Dmitri Tcherniakov’s production, which I’ll be attending soon. Parsifal is musically almost painfully sublime to me, and its story so convoluted, conflicted, and magical, that seeing one of my very favourite directors tackle it (with one of my mega fave singers in the cast and the legendary Daniel Barenboim in the pit) is… well, freaking me out. If you’d like to check out one of the greatest operas ever, I recommend Stefan Herheim’s Bayreuth production, which is so good that words actually fail me. Check out the prelude here: part 1 & part 2.

Dana

♥ Sometimes I’m the truly intolerable type of film hipster where once everyone sees and loves a movie I once loved, I’m sort of over it. Not the case with It Follows, which I was lucky enough to see in a test screening last year, and which will probably be it-followsone of my favorite films of 2015, as well as 2014, as it was recently released in theaters. Rarely have I been more excited about the hype around a film, since David Robert Mitchell’s film delves into the fear, paranoia, and intense panic around teen sexuality without being misogynistic or moralistic in the least. And unlike so many “social issue” horror films, It Follows is actually scary as fuck. Maika Monroe, also seen in another great 2014 horror film, The Guest, is my new favorite final girl, and I want her in whatever feminist horror film I make. She’s got the face of a young Catherine Deneuve, and kicks total ass, while also being a fine actress. I cannot recommend this film enough! Which seems to be the case all over, as it opened to unexpectedly huge box office takes in LA and NY. The film’s expanding over the coming weekends, so check it out if you are able! You can believe the hype on this one.

♥ The winter is very hard on me – I don’t leave the house (even less than normal), I have to wear clothes I hate (ugh sweaters!), everything is sad and cold and everyone is crabby. But being from the Midwest, when the weather gets to be about 45-50 degrees (Fahrenheit, natch), it feels like it might as well be summer. I am sure that as we speak, my father and brother in Wisconsin are unpacking their shorts from the back of the closet, in preparation for above-freezing temperatures. Even in New York, everyone gets happier, my dog is much more interested in being outside, and you start seeing girls in cute outfits again everywhere (style inspo!). While we’re not quite there yet – and NYC actually might get snow on Friday – I can see it in the future. The near future.

♥ I’ve been feeling the need to nest lately, to clean up my living space and get the dog and husband smells out, to put up cute posters and make the place feel like home, and not a den we have been burrowing in for the last four months. Clearly, this is related to the above point, but I’m investing in candles, incense, and sage for burning to do a spatial cleanse. That, and the actual spring cleaning I’m doing this weekend.

Femina Ridens’ Femina Ridens (1969) Round Table

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Maddy: Good morning everyone!

Hope we’re excited about talking about the very strange, very interesting Femina Ridens.

How about we reply with initial impressions/things that peaked your interests?

I’ve got a few overarching questions that we may want to address (but if discussion goes in a different direction that’s cool too!)

How do we feel about the film as a feminist work? A few of us are very interested in eurotrash/genre films, which are very misogynistic, but often have something else that keeps us (well, me, and I’m assuming for the rest of you) coming back. This film in particular is considered as a feminist undermining of this kind of genre filmmaking. Does it work on that level? Do we buy that reading? If so/if not, why?

The set design/art direction is amazing. No questions there. Eurotrash is usually very showy in terms of location & design – what did we think of it in this case? Does it work with or against the narrative/ideologies of the film?

Favourite look?

How do I get the theme song to be my ringtone?

Emily: First of all, this is one of those viewing experiences that makes me glad I am a women, if that makes sense–what I mean is, after watching the movie (and really enjoying it) I googled it and looked up some IMDB reviews, which inevitably were variations on “Dagmar Lassander gave me a boner hurhurhur” by film bros. God, what a boring and sad way to live your life, you know? That all you take away from this is your scopophilic alignment with Mr. Mueslix Box Illustration/I Desperately Need Some Toner. Watching it as a woman and a feminist, the payoff of the twist at the end was everything–after seeing these awful scenes of fetishistically photographed misogyny and abuse (which are only versions of things I’ve seen a thousand times), to have Lassander end up literally slaying and triumphantly yoga posing in her fortress of queer queendom was incredibly cathartic. That said, obviously the film was directed by a dude and obviously those scenes I talked about (which are in some senses revised/undercut by the ending) are still incredibly exploitative, violent, and difficult to watch, and (judging by the gross reviews I read) largely the reason many people still want to watch the film. So, for me, even while loving the movie, I remain upset by and conflicted about the objectification and gendered/sexualized violence. I’m also wondering to what extent we can see the movie’s feminism (if that’s a label we feel comfortable applying) or subversive elements as things that are realized by the female artists involved in it (eg. Lassander and her AMAZING FACE which mocks her ersatz captor through the whole film, Niki de Saint Phalle’s incredible statue/installation).

I’m interested to see what people have to say about how the set design works with or against the ideologies we see functioning. One thing that struck me about the sets (besides their beauty) was how even though we spend a ton of time in his gross basement torture compound, it’s incredibly difficult to, like, orient yourself in that space–it’s unclear how the different parts fit together.

Favourite look was the poodle hair/poodle purse combo on the character that frames the story, AND Lassander’s alien sunglasses during the “field trip” they take to the country.

(Also, just thinking more about my answer to the first question, I’m kind of questioning myself re: my feeling of catharsis…because that’s a feeling that depends on experiencing the film’s violence. Is it still a gross kind of pleasure to get out of everything? CONFLICTED.)

Maaike: I have to admit I was super tired when I watched the film, so these are really just my gut reactions.

I feel like the film works more on the level of trope reversal, and the kind of catharsis Emily described, than anything else. I mean, it would be cool if creepy rapists were more frequently taken out of circulation, but in the end, just like (as Emily mentioned) the male viewer gets what he wants out of this movie, the kidnapper also gets exactly what he wants out of Dagmar Lassander, even if he pays for it with his life. First he wants her to be his terrified victim, and gets it (it’s not real, but he never realises this); then he wants to have this cute mutual thing going with her, and gets it; finally, he conquers his self doubt through access to her body. It kills him, but it goes so fast he probably doesn’t even have time to regret his decision. It’s a pretty empty victory in the sense that nothing changes, there’s just one less creep out there because he had a heart attack and died. Considering that “kill all the creeps” is a message that I assume nobody actually takes away from this movie, it’s great as a cathartic upending of its genre, but i don’t know that it achieves much else.

Re: question two, I have to admit first of all that I have a lot of issues with the term Eurotrash. Most likely this is partially petulant Euro resentment on my part, but none of the ways I’ve seen it used mesh with each other at all to form any kind of coherent concept people can agree on, outside of Europeanness, and it annoys me because this makes it so inefficient as a descriptive term. Anyway, that aside, I was a bit more oriented on Lassander’s increasing mobility/confidence within the space than the space itself, so I’m not sure I can think of much to say on this point. I think the space is very much set up for voyeurism, and in a few cases explicitly violent voyeurism, as in the case of that metal wire screen that’s less wall- or cage-like than something that could actually hurt you. I can’t think of any ways that the space subverts the kidnapper’s desires, honestly. I feel like Lassander’s trajectory through it projects an increasing sense of ownership on her part, but I feel like that plays more into the problems I have with the film (as in, does this really subvert anything?) than into effecting a change within the space. Even after grayscale face man is dead, his dummy is still sitting there, still watching her from behind a partition, and she’s still essentially performing for it.

Favourite look? Dagmar’s awkward-date-day outfit obviously. Those shoes alone win it, and I love her with short hair. Also, those sunglasses make her look like Lindsay Lohan (Maddy, tell me I’m not alone here!)

There’s a few things up there that I’m not sure I worded correctly, but I’m not really sure how to rephrase them. Like, I don’t think a film needs to be somehow perfectly feminist in its conclusion or its story to be feminist, or needs to project one specific message or moral, which I think my wording probably implies above. I just don’t think this film really works as feminist on a fundamental level, not only because it consistently caters to the desires of male viewers who want to see women depicted a certain way, but also because ultimately, though he dies at the end, the man still gets exactly what he wants out of the woman, both in terms of how he relates to her and she to him, and in terms of his access to her body.

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Emily: I definitely agree with you re: how much the film satisfies male desires and how gross that is, and I love the analogy you draw between Mr. Mueslix and the male viewer; like him, the male viewer doesn’t have to have their pleasure revised/revoked by the final 10 minutes of the film. As I was watching I was wondering about how much the film openly makes fun of him, though–to me he’s such a clearly ridiculous, impotent figure and I think that’s explicitly part of the film (e.g. him checking out his bald spot in the mirror, his pathetic performances of physical “virtuosity” in front of Lassander, his flaccid antics documented by her on camera on their outing); does that complicate things at all? Or is it something else that can be just as easily glazed over to get a glimpse of boobs?

Maaike: No, that’s a really good point. I feel like this is where my tiredness the other night is going to trip me up, because if I’m going to zone out it’s definitely going to happen when someone talks about their masculinity issues, so I probably missed a few things that happened there. You’re totally right that he is openly made fun of, though. His manly posturing is so absurd and pathetic, and it’s really shown up as such. I feel like this is potentially double-edged, though: on the one hand it could be making fun of the tropes of masculinity as such, as a grotesque performance by people who have issues. On the other hand, it could also be a way to cast out this particular man from “real” masculinity, which would then be characterised by natural dominance and a lack of the anxiety and self-doubt this dude is clearly dealing with. This would turn it into more of a male self-regulation thing, where it’s okay (or even a fitting punishment) for this guy to get killed because he wasn’t really one of the guys, anyway; real men wouldn’t lose a game on their home turf like that. I don’t really feel comfortable picking one over the other, though, because of all the dialogue I missed when I started becoming very bored with this man. I’d like to hear your (general you) thoughts on this, because I feel like other people can probably contribute more here than I can.

Maddy: Good points guys! I’m not crazy about the eurotrash moniker either, not only for its inherently dismissive implications. I guess I used it because it’s the usual term, but more strictly it would be giallo. I guess I feel like we’ve got too few words/terms, and therefore a lack of real thinking/understanding/interaction and that’s where the problem lies, which ties into your feelings Maaike.

The issue of the viewer/intention is really key for me. I was having a conversation with Andrew the other day about how I have no interest in talking about these kinds of films (exploitation? B art films from Europe in the 60s and 70s? horror in general) with a straight man. I don’t have any interest in the people these films are meant to titillate. But that’s often a big part of these films/sometimes the whole point of the film that I totally disregard (which is dumb, but is maybe a means for me to tolerate all the things that bother me so much). A lot of these kinds of films, and this film, is fucked up. And though there are certainly parts that undermine its message, that doesn’t mean the setup is okay by any means. Just because the villain is a mocked fool & gets killed in the end, that doesn’t mean women weren’t exploited earlier, and it doesn’t cancel out what happened initially.

This tension is what interests me the most about the film. Obviously if the exploitative (I’m just going to use that term though it isn’t perfect) parts weren’t included, this would be a Better Feminist Work. But what does it mean when something exploitative undermines itself, however poorly? As a work within a tradition of misogyny, why is it doing this? Is it a means of making it “okay” that the earlier exploitation happened, and is therefore insincere?  Or is it trying to do something subversive in its own field?

I keep deleting this rambling paragraphs of what I think of feminism, and how it functions currently, which doesn’t really have a place here. Anyways, I feel like right now we’re at a moment where things need to be labelled feminist or derogatory, and those two are the only options. We’re all too smart for that, but that’s definitely a tension here. This is a film that is in, and takes up the form of exploitation of women. But it does undermine it. But does that make it feminist? And how does authorial intent/perception work here? I think Maaike & Emily are right to point out the issues of the dude bros who watch this film – because they’re the intended audience, let’s be honest. But this film, more than most of its kind, tries to be high art, but is still low brow. It is exploitative, but subverts itself. Because it works as an in-between work, I think it is subversive of a medium that is already supposed to be subversive, but not radical.

Maaike: I really like the points you brought up! I’ve noticed the feminist (good) vs. derogatory (bad, bye) divide recently too and it bugs me, too, though maybe my points above might read as fitting into that? I’m not sure.

This is more of an aside, but I think my focus on what the film actually does, as opposed to what the viewer can do with it, is probably informed by the way I totally failed to ground myself when I started watching Bollywood films. I was completely blown away by the amount of attention that was paid to women’s issues, the way female characters got to speak about their struggles and oppression, and so on. I took it at face value for a long time, before realising that (many of) these films are effectively set up to still finally silence and neutralise the subversive female elements (though the level of genuine subversion obviously differs from film to film). Oftentimes, women are allowed to speak so they will shut up when they’re done, or are allowed to speak in a way that will still allow for their eventual submission to the status quo. It’s a hypocrisy and a sliding scale that a lot of Indian viewers and people who write about the industry are totally aware of, and that I was straight up ignoring because I was so excited that women were speaking up in these films in a way I’d never seen elsewhere. That was an eye opener for me, and since then I’ve been very careful to not read my own desires or preferred ideas into films without also making sure I realise what the film itself is doing. I get carried away quite easily, so while I like ambiguity, I never feel I can get into that until I’ve started by thoroughly acknowledging the things that I’d rather were not in the film, but still are. I’m never really this adamant about it when the film in question is just one I can love while also disagreeing with it 100%, but when it comes to things like feminist subversion I really have to ground myself because I just want things to be great!

Maddy: I really appreciate you verbalizing the “just happy to see women so I didn’t realize the issues” because that’s something I still have to deal with! I had a rambly paragraph working around the same idea!

Dana: Yes, I am generally totally with you, Mad, on wanting to talk about these films most with the audience that the film seemingly ignores (see a perfect example in this poster for 1968’s Corruption). I think when something “exploitative” seems to undermine itself, for me at least, it’s often based in the strong female performance in the film. Dagmar Lassander is a total boss bitch, and makes something out of the film that I think a lesser actress might not have been able to. I don’t think that makes the film feminist, per se, but it certainly provides dimensions that a lot of lesser, more poorly authored films just aren’t able to.

What does everyone think of the title – “The Laughing Woman” (generally accepted English title) vs “The Frightened Woman” (alternate English title)? I think it’s kind of a little microcosm of all the issues of exploitation we’re talking about here.

Title Card for Femina Ridens (1969)

Emily: Dana, I have been thinking a lot about the title. From my research (uh…google translate) it seems like the word “ridens” really only means laughing/mocking/ridiculing (unless there’s another connotation I’m missing because I don’t speak Italian), so it’s interesting that “The Frightened Woman” has become an alternate title. In a way I can see the logic, because calling it “The Laughing Woman” is kind of a spoiler, but really that “spoiler” is put forward with the title card of the movie (backed by an abstract grin on the vagina dentata statue/structure). Like you’re saying Dana, the title is really a version in miniature of the conflicts and ambiguities we’ve been exploring here: to call it “The Frightened Woman” speaks to the narrative that is subverted, in various ways (and with varying success depending on your perspective), by the film itself; “The Frightened Woman” is also obviously what constipated dudebro wants her to be (and what his fellow film-watching dudebros take pleasure in consuming). “The Laughing Woman” is what they are afraid of. Some other things I’ve been thinking about are the bodily aspects of both emotions: both twisting the face, both often coming unbidden as visceral experiences. And the idea of choosing laughter instead of fear (or alongside fear, or as part of fear) in the face of misogyny, exploitation, and abuse. And the fact that I laughed a lot at the end of the film as part of my enjoyment of how it upended what had come before.

Also, one more thought on “The Laughing Woman” as “spoiler”: for many viewers, knowing that the woman finally laughs, is not only frightened, could be something to hang on to during the film. Personally, I probably would have turned the movie off partway through (specifically, during either the slideshow of “dead” women or the first scene in the pool) if I didn’t think that there would be some kind of revenge or redress at the end, something I trusted would happen because I couldn’t see you guys selecting the film for us otherwise.

THINGS WE CURRENTLY LOVE: FEBRUARY EDITION

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, what could be a more stereotypically perfect date to introduce a semi-regular feature: Things We Currently Love! It’s a little peek at the things, from the superficial to the serious, that ring our bells.

Maddie:

♥ TV shows that aren’t about white people. Like most media-oriented young Asian-Americans, I’ve spent the past few weeks anticipating, worrying about, reading up on, finally watching, and worrying about ABC’s new sitcom Fresh Off The Boat. At the same time I’ve gotten into Fox’s record label melodrama Empire, which is both nothing like Fresh Off the Boat and an interesting complement to it. fresh off the boatThere’s the hip-hop component of both, yes, and I loved David Turner’s point that there are two shows on American TV right now about rap music through a non-white lens. But the more deeply felt link between the two shows is family, with kids stumbling to find their own ways in the world and strong, complex, wickedly funny moms at the centre of both shows. (Constance Wu, who plays Fresh Off the Boat’s mom Jessica Huang, had a great interview with TIME last week about her character.) And another thing I love in both shows is the unspoken details: the shorthand in Empire of New York neighbourhoods and “the Nation” and gatherings full of aunts that give depth to the world the characters live in, and the set dressing and throwaway lines of Fresh Off the Boat that make me laugh not because they’re funny, per se, but because I can understand them right away.

milktea dessert

♥ Even though it’s winter, I’ve been drinking as much cold milk tea as I can: meeting friends after work for roasted oolong with tapioca pearls, no ice; picking up impractically-sized bottles of Kirin milk tea at the Korean grocery store, the brand of tea I would buy cold whenever I passed a vending machine in Tokyo two years ago; and daydreaming about the giant pile of milk tea shaved ice with grass jelly and tapioca I had on a really cold day in North York.

dikiThe work of Diki Tattooer, a Seoul-based tattoo artist whose artwork recalls Art Deco, stained glass, 50s cartoons, and high school notebook doodles. I love his minimalist line art works, most of which seem to be no larger than 1cm by 1cm on an otherwise blank stretch of skin, like a little decoration. Their flippant placement (and sometimes content) undermines the scary permanence that Getting A Tattoo still holds, in my mind anyway. (P.S., if my mom is reading this: I’m still not getting one!)

Maddy:

Frozen spinach: I’ve been trying to eat healthier, which so far has manifested in reading many, many articles and blog posts about superfoods. When it comes to actually purchasing, I’m overwhelmed at the grocery store (which would happen regardless of blog posts) and whatever I buy ends up going bad before I can eat all of it. Frozen spinach is the miracle – keeps forever, inexpensive, and very good for you. It’s often in a weird place (frozen food? vegetables? next to the Popsicles?) so it is a quest to find it, but I have. And I will again.

Lush’s dry shampoo: I don’t blow dry my hair, so whenever I wash it, it’ll take the whole day to dry. This is fine, but with winter finally arriving in Toronto, wet hair ends up limiting my days. So for those inbetween days I use a lot of dry shampoo. Lush is too white-savioury for me to be a regular customer, but their dry shampoo is the best. I’m able to have clean hair and go outside in -22 temperatures immediately (not that I want to). My boyfriend also enjoys it.

That weird sandwich my boyfriend makesRye bread, pate, cheddar, salami and bread and butter pickles. You would think it’s disgusting, but you would be wrong.

Eva:

♥ I read The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai in almost one sitting on a weekend in early February. This book is a ghost story but it isn’t really about the ghost, who amounts mostly to shattered glass and blown lights. The novel focuses instead on the living people that populate Laurelfield, the haunted house and former haunted artist’s colony, throughout its titular hundred years. Perhaps my favorite thing about any book is the slow uncovering of secrets and The Hundred-Year House has its fair share of mysteries. Each revelation raises new questions as the narrative jumps backward through time, from 1999 to 1955 to 1929 and finally to 1900 (a “prologue” of sorts). This book is about both transformation and the cyclical nature of family histories and owes a lot to the English country house genre, though it is unique enough to hold the attention of any veteran of the haunted house novel.

♥ I am unrepentantly vain about my luxuriously thick head of hair and, aside from argan oil and air-drying, I am completely dependent on Briogeo Don’t Despair, Repair Deep Conditioning Mask to get me through the winter. Unlike most other hair masks I’ve tried, it is applied on wet hair after shampooing and only worn for 5-10 minutes as opposed to an agonizing 20-30 minutes of waiting around to shower with your dry hair saturated with something akin to mayonnaise. The result is soft, smooth hair that isn’t weighed down by any excess oil. It’s a little pricey so I use it only weekly, but it is by far the best hair mask I’ve ever used and it smells like coconut!

♥ I discovered Veronica Falls a little late (they formed in London in 2009) but just in time for my first foggy winter in the Pacific Northwest. Self-described as “horror rock, ” creepy lyrics combined with brooding, sometimes retro, indie pop makes them perfect for wandering in the unseasonably warm but maddeningly grey Washington winter; the deeply unsettling surf rock track “Beachy Head” in particular makes me wish I lived closer to the ocean just so I could die in it at night. If you like guitar-driven jams, The Cranberries, graveyards, Romanticism, and classic twee (think Black Tambourine) you will like Veronica Falls.

Maaike:eline vere

♥ The biggest thing of the past month for me was Harry Kümel’s serialised adaptation of Eline Vere (a classic of Dutch literature, which to be honest I’m only now finally reading). It has its flaws, but overwhelmed me completely with its visual beauty and its engagement, in different ways and on different levels, with so many things that are important to me (not the least of which are my love of opera, of my hometown, in which Eline Vere is largely set, and of uncompromisingly excessive women).

mahal♥ I’ve also been immersing myself in classic Bollywood films recently. I’m really enjoying exploring beyond the (so so good) masala films of the ’60s I was already more familiar with. Last month’s highlight was the eerie Mahal (1949), starring megababes Madhubala and Ashok Kumar; currently watching and loving Madhumati (1958), a very different film on similar themes. I also finally remembered to find compilations of songs from one of my favourite Bollywood voices, Shamshad Begum; this one is my current favourite.

room

♥ Having recently switched bedrooms with my flatmate, I’ve been working on making my new room look nice, a process that tends to take me absolutely forever but which I really enjoy. Taking the time to go through all of my favourite things, finding out how they change the room and how the room changes them, is really calming and satisfying, plus a good excuse to put the Shamshad Begum mix on repeat and sing along (badly).

Erica:

♥ Alice Coltrane, A Monastic Trio:

I’m still adjusting to winter in the midwest, where the sun goes away for weeks on end. Those long, grey days–I forget how to be a person, how to talk and laugh and be around people. I need sun. That’s when I put on some Alice Coltrane.

A Monastic Trio was jazz harpist Alice Coltrane’s first solo record, made the year after her husband’s death. It’s not an elegy, though: Trio is celebratory, weird and gorgeous. Coltrane’s harp pirouettes like a cartoon ballerina, playing against the clarinet, thrumming bass, and drones. Every track is gold, but I’m obsessed with “I Want to See You,” Coltrane’s piano concerto. Its bright notes remind me: soon we’ll have light and warmth again. (Take that, Illinois!)1525904_orig

♥ Queer Zine Archive Project: As I wrap up my last semester in library school, I’ve been thinking a lot about archives and the ways they tell certain (read: white/cis/heteronormative/capitalist) stories about the world.  Suffice it to say, that’s tremendously shitty. Thankfully, there’s a growing number of projects devoted to making sure marginalized voices (including POC and/or LGBTQ folks) find their way into the archives. Exhibit A: the Queer Zine Archive Project. QZAP is an amazing volunteer-run online archive of queer and trans zines, all freely available to read and download. Where to start? I loved Trans Rentboys, an important anthology featuring stories from trans sex workers across the world.

Screenshot at Feb 14 15-57-42

♥ Mastering my Sophia Loren cat eye: The number of Q-tips I’ve lost to Youtube cat eye tutorials is legion. It’s embarrassing. On the plus side, being a winter recluse gives me lots of time to practice my Sophia Loren-inspired cat eye. It’s not perfect, but I’m getting there! Thanks, Stila liquid eyeliner and repeat views of Prêt-à-Porter.

Amaka:11001007_10108139832297714_1956751705_o

♥ “Before July: Demos and Unreleased Songs” by Marissa Nadler: This 5-song set from Massachusets native Marissa Nadler is a real gem. While each track is fantastic, I find myself most drawn to the demo version of “Dead City Emily” (another version of the same song is featured on July, her full length album released in February of last year) and “The Rose City.” “Leave The Light On” is stellar as well, and reads to me like a bleak tale about intimacy, departure, and cautious optimism.

♥ Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto: I have always avoided traditional ice cream in favor of sorbet, but Talenti’s line of delectable gelato is making me reconsider my once firm stance. In the age of deeply personal and lengthy Yelp reviews, it is very easy (and tempting!) to discuss and describe food 11006073_10108139832272764_337335844_nin an  exhausting way, but I don’t know enough about this ice cream’s chemistry to do that comfortably. However, I do know that it is delicious and offers a diverse range of flavors, including but not limited to: German Chocolate Cake, Caramel Cookie Crunch, Tahitian Vanilla Bean, and Sicilian Pistachio.

As a bonus, its packaging has great utility for future uses; its plastic container can be used again for snacks, paint, coins, and much more.

 The “Nightshift” dance scene in 35 Shots of Rum:

35 Shots of Rum (dir. Claire Denis, 2008) explores the relationship between widower Lionel (Alex Descas) and his daughter, Josephine (Mati Diop), as they adjust to the minor and major changes in their lives. The entire film is a stunning, unassuming study of love, disappointment, and grief, but one moment stands out to me in particular — the “Nightshift” scene.

Lionel, Josephine, and their neighbors Noé (Grégoire Colin) and Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue) encounter a rainstorm while driving at night and seek refuge in a restaurant. After a brief dance with his daughter in the middle of the restaurant, Lionel silently transfers his daughter to Noé, as the soothing Commodores classic, “Nightshift” plays in the background.

Josephine’s dance with Noé is much more than “friendly swaying” amongst neighbors, and one soon realizes that Lionel has let his daughter go in more ways than one. The moment is wordless, but not quiet.

Julia:

♥ I came across this musical project by Geneviève Castrée and was gobsmacked by the fact that it had taken so long for me to hear about this artist! Her earlier incarnations as Woelv went entirely unnoticed by me, but thanks to this tweet by the always-weird Phil Eleverum, I started listening to this new album and could. not. stop.

She also did the album artwork – appropriate since I only knew of her because of her graphic novel, published by Drawn & Quarterly. It features the two bridges which link Quebec City to the south shore, Lévis. She sings about names of streets and highways I walk past every day, about the ugliness of the endless winters and gravel and ice, about teen angst. Musically, hints of Julie Doiron, Scout Niblett and even a little bit of death metal bleed through this album. If you only listen to one song make it Boue/Fleuve II.

It’s also stemmed some amazing discussions with my Quebec City friends who are 35 and older, who ended up telling me all about the bands who used to play at a bar in the old city which was called “Les Fourmis Atomiques.” Punk bands with names like Les Marmottes Aplatis (the flattened marmots), Les Soeurs Volantes (The Flying Nuns) and WD-40. Amazing!

Galentine's Day

Galentine’s Card from BroodX, Tattooed lady from Crankbunny

♥ Subverting/Repurposing Valentine’s Day

Whether it be a friendly shifting towards Palentine’s Day, or the much more serious invitation to donate to local women’s shelters instead of buying roses, I love the way people are increasingly invited to make Valentine’s Day whatever the fuck they want it to be. I also think it’s a great occasion to revisit what our own perspectives on love and relationships are. This quote has resonated with me for years, and I tend to think back to it around this time of year.

Few people realize how sadly appropriate it is to use Valentine’s Day as a moment to reflect on domestic abuse and violence against women. Since 1991, activists in Canada have used February 14 to mark a National Day of Action for missing and murdered Indigenous women, hosting candlelight vigils, marches and protests. This year, February 13th marked one year since Loretta Saunders was last seen alive. Since her death, there have been other “flashpoint” deaths (Tina Fontaine), violent assaults and attempted murders (Rinelle Harper) that have raised more awareness around this issue in a Canadian political context. Today, the hashtag #HowWeDisappear is shining a light on missing and murdered women, about how specifically Indigenous women are rendered invisible by the mainstream media. Slowly but surely, it feels like a shift is happening, and that gives me hope.

Dana:kiss-GEL-FANTASY-NAILS

♥ When I’m having a bad day at work, my favorite thing to do is to take a little break, walk around the corner to the nearest Duane Reade, and spend a few minutes in the fake nail aisle. It’s so soothing to me, as I forget about whatever bullshit is waiting for me back at my desk, and imagine myself with long, well painted, glittery nails. My favorite brand is Kiss’ Gel Fantasy nails, which are generally outrageously sparkly and wonderful. Occasionally I buy some, too, because what else is worth $9 than being able to have the most beautiful hands?

♥ I’ve been aware of Sam Smith for a while, because it’s currently pretty hard to avoid him even if you really wanted to. But I had never given his music a real chance; sure, “Stay With Me” and “Money On My Mind” are both catchy ear bugs, but I finally listened to Smith’s album In the Lonely Hour recently, and it’s hitting me right in my current sweet spot of earnest, high-emotion, almost melodramatic pop songs (see also: “Pills N Potions” by person-I-always-love Nicki Minaj).

I listen to “Like I Can” on repeat as I’m walking around NYC in the bitter cold and snow, and picture myself on a mountaintop, arms outstretched, yell-singing this song to the world.

♥ A problem I often have with repertory programming in New York is that it’s too serious-minded. Film Forum’s recent Orson Welles 100 program was wonderful, but it left out such highly entertaining, but perhaps not weighty enough, films as Harry 31284_2015_CTEK_Carpenter_Series_Image_613x463Kümel’s Malpertuis, or Bert I. Gordon’s Necromancy, or even The Transformers Movie! Welles may be a serious figure in the history of film, but he was not a self-serious person at all. Which is why I’m really loving BAM’s John Carpenter retrospective. Carpenter is one of my all-time favorite directors; his horror films are truly scary, his action films truly thrilling, and much of his film work is imbued with a humor that is actually funny, but never takes away from the action. This past week, I caught In the Mouth of Madness, Carpenter’s Lovecraft tribute, in 35MM, and it gave me nightmares that night – something that doesn’t happen often to me, a hardened horror film vet. Carpenter is truly a master (and I hope he gets well soon!). I can’t wait to catch Assault at Precinct 13 (that score!!), The Ward, and Escape From New York/Los Angeles on the big screen.