Monday, August 18, 2014

Random Weekend Roundup

This weekend I was in full relaxation mode and watched two very different but equally enjoyable movie adaptations of books I hadn't read. The first was Guardians of the Galaxy, which has been getting a lot of buzz around the ol' media-centric parts of the English language Internets. Although I have absolutely no interest in the regressive American style of comic books aimed at preteen boys and their preteen boy minded adult counterparts--i.e. Marvel/DC comics--I do enjoy the work of James Gunn, who directed the film, and since this was a property that hadn't been beaten into my skull ala Batman with a thousand reboots, I thought I may as well give it a try.

Wow. I haven't been this charmed by a big budget Hollywood action film since Fast Five.

What Guardians of the Galaxy has that so many of these films are missing is… good characters, a good sense of humor, good morals, and, most importantly, good music. I don't know anything about the original comics and I really don't want to subject myself to any Western film fanboy writing on it in order to find out. But the movie itself is definitely worth checking out. Like Fast Five, it was really wonderful to sink into a film where women are people not props, friendship is the most important thing in the universe, and there's always time for a heartwarming moment. Plus, Vin Diesel. You know.

The other film I watched this weekend was a Japanese movie called 『図書館戦争』 (Toshokan Sensou; The Library War; 2013), which is based on a series of dystopian novels where armed government censors are trying to destroy the nation's libraries. The censorship battles are the backdrop to our heroine, a plucky new recruit of the Library Defense Force named Kasahara (Eikura Nana), learning to take her job seriously and just trying her best to be the best soldier for truth and justice that she can be. It's a wonderfully earnest and lady-positive movie. There's no overt romance--although Kasahara and her hunky lieutenant (Okada Junichi) have a lot of chemistry--and Kasahara remains focused on improving HERSELF in order to be a good member of the team and of society. She also has a sassy best friend (Kuriyama Chiaki) who ensures that the film passes the Bechdel test.

Building on a couple of passing thoughts from last week, it's really nice to see films where male-female friendship not romance is at the heart. Like with Entertainment and how Tamannaah and Akshay's characters were already in a relationship so their interactions were comfortable and friendly rather than fraught and battle-drawn. As a woman who enjoys spending time with male friends in totally platonic ways, it's nice to see that "friend zone" represented as a positive and not just a speed bump on the way to EPIC ROMANCE THE ONLY MEANINGFUL MALE-FEMALE RELATIONSHIP. (I'm looking at you, What if, the latest offender.)

And it was also really nice to see two action films where the women were assumed to be competent and didn't spend the whole time afraid of men and sexual violence wasn't even hinted at. One of the other poisonous threads in Western media culture--along with "the friend zone"--is this idea that women are weak somehow. That we should be just constantly afraid of men. That men should treat us as a separate species to be protected and coddled. Kasahara has no qualms about throwing dudes to the floor in judo class and then, later, when (the much shorter than her) Hunky Lieutenant tries to send Kasahara off to keep her safe during the final battle, it ends up backfiring and she has to save his bacon. AND THEN HE APOLOGIZES TO HER. And Gamora (Zoe Saldana) from Guardians of the Galaxy is also right in the thick of the battle.

Women can be strong, too. We're not just for lusting after and saving.

ETA: Wow, the Toshokan Sensou trailer does not do the film justice. The romancey/saving lines were totally cherry picked.


odadune said...

I saw Guardians of the Galaxy as well recently. :) Mostly enjoyed it, found Chris Pratt a bit weak/annoying, although maybe that was necessary to let the others shine.

I approve of the Toshokan Sensou filmmakers' solution to a Farenheit 451 type scenario. Thanks for putting it on the radar.

eliza bennet said...

I loved Guardians of the Galaxy and how warm, fuzzy and fun it made me feel. And the effects were pretty good too (not that they were the centre of things). Loved the soundtrack and Chris Pratt was just right. The character (the only whose backstory is explained) is written as not to be larger than the others and I love it that every single one of them was the comic relief. Pratt is perfect for that. He doesn't have an overwhelming screen presence but he is very likable, good looking and funny.

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