Friday, May 14, 2004

Forget real life. Let's bitch about movies!

With the problems of the real world way too horrifying and disturbing for me to process right now, I think I am going to retreat into a topic I can handle with such a degree of self-importance that doesn't require introspection or anger.

That's right. Film snobbery.

What is with the stupid, annoying girls in Hollywood Blockbusters these days? Where have all the plucky punk girls gone? Between Kiera Knightley's eye-rolling turn as a fantastically skinny, constantly indignant pain in the neck in last year's Pirates of the Caribbean to Kate Beckinsale's collagen lip-injected, improbably dressed, goofily accented Rumanian girl in the recent Van Helsing, I'm yearning for a girl who's a plausible badass and yet not an obvious attempt to soulessly cater to girl-power audiences.

Ms. Beckinsale is a usual suspect for this sort of thing, but her character in Van Helsing was particularly odious to me. My husband loved this movie, but I couldn't get over Kate's silly spandex outfit. Why is she wearing pants instead of a skirt, I asked, as you would expect a gypsy girl to do in that time period. Because skirts would be so cumbersome for a person doing all that fighting, my darling husband replied. Okay, then why, pray tell, is she wearing a corset? Was it like a fighting corset or something?

There's a scene in the otherwise surprisingly cool Pirates of the Caribbean that highlights my point. When the motley crew of pirates assembled by Jack Sparrow find themselves on the run from Capitan Barbossa in the Black Pearl, for some reason Knightley's character, the daughter of a politician, having had no experience with this sort of thing before, comes up with a plan to save the day. What is especially irksome is that if they had wanted to show a girl outsmarting a pirate, there was a perfectly good girl pirate right there to do so (Annamaria, the one who slapped Johnny Depp so soundly in the previous scene). But no, the annoying spunky, skinny Knightley gets to save the day.

Having just returned from Troy, I must admit that that film did offer me some hope. Helen, unlike Kiera Knightley's Guinevere appears to be doing in the trailer for that King Arthur monstrosity, does not shoot any arrows or join in the battle for no plausible reason. The film offers a genuine, strong, believable girl in the form of Briseis, a girl so strong and courageous only Achilles was man enough for her. She also gets to kill one of the great pricks in all of western literature, although I won't tell you who as it is a rather major departure from the Iliad. (although I must also admit that I was very disappointed in the absence of Cassandra.)

No one in many years, however, has come close enough to touch my favorite movie girl, one who inspired much pluckiness in me in my youth. I'm speaking of Karen Allen, playing Marion in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. The film in general is an excellent Blockbuster, the type Hollywood seems to be incapable of making any more. Marion, however, is my hero. She's strong enough to win drinking contests in Outer Mongolia, angry enough to swing a few good punches, makes Indy take her on as partner, and yet is still womanly in that cool, gorgeous 1930's era white dress. Indy shoulda stuck with her instead of hooking up with that shrill, soon-to-be Stepford Wife Kate Capshaw from Temple of Doom.

Instead of dwelling on every bad thing happening recently (and it's all I can do to keep from shouting or ripping out my hair if I allow myself to think of some of the things that have happened in the past weeks) I think I will retreat into the cool, slick, simple comfort of some good popcorny flicks. The kind they just don't make anymore.

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