FILM

"Little Women" Is the Cure for 2019

Try being cynical during this movie. We dare you.

Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

When asked by well-meaning older relatives—with faith in capitalism still shining in their eyes—if I want to have children someday, I usually respond with something like, "With fascism on the rise and an inevitable resource war on the horizon? With each day of inaction marching humanity closer to utter annihilation at the hands of climate change? I don't want to ruin my t*ts, Grandma."

Needless to say, I am a cynic by nature and circumstance and definitely an insufferable smartass.

2019 only further exacerbated my tendency to look on the dark side. Afterall, how can anyone truly believe that humanity has any fundamental goodness left with Donald Trump as president, cross-body fanny packs gaining in popularity, and CATS the movie existing? It's been a long year of absurdity in popular culture and politics; so dark and absurd, in fact, that my usual go-to feel-good flicks no longer do much to assuage my sorrow. I watched Love Actually on Christmas Eve and felt as empty as Kira Knightly's sallow, wan cheeks. Not even the precious ghost dog in Coco could touch my existential dread this holiday season. I was beginning to feel that there was nothing that could make the horror of 2019 feel distant, until, hungover and full of Sunday chilli, I accompanied my immediate family on an outing to see Greta Gerwig's Little Women.

As my mother's favorite childhood book, Little Women has always held a special place in my family's collective consciousness. Despite this, admittedly, my expectations were low. I knew the story well, and while I loved its relentless optimism in previous eras of my life, I struggled to believe the endearing March family and their romantic, simple adventures could possibly shine any light on the complicated darkness of 2019. I expected it to only make me feel worse, like a person in a depressive episode seeing Christmas lights.



Based on Louisa May-Alcott's 1868 novel, the 2019 remake of Little Women stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, and Meryl Streep. As the movie began, I was immediately arrested by the piercing blue of Ronan's eyes and the adorableness of Pugh's button nose, and things only got better from there. First of all, there was something so deeply appealing about Laura Dern as Marmie, the mother of the titular little women, that I questioned whether I wanted her to give me a bath or to take a bath with her. Anyway, Freud aside, the tears began to flow around minute 11 of the movie. I touched my damp face with shock. Since the night of the 2016 election, the tears of rage and sorrow have come with less and less frequency as numbness quietly set in. And yet, here I was...feeling? In 2019? Unheard of.

Matters only worsened as my cold, dead heart was warmed by the selflessness of Beth (Eliza Scanlen), only to be broken by her illness, revived by Emma Watson's dreaminess in a pink dress, sent soaring by Jo's (Saorise Ronan) insistence on following her dreams, and stirred again by Timothee Chalamet's ass in a pair of high-waisted trousers. Suddenly, my cares seemed to melt away. As Father finally returned from war, Donald Trump's Twitter account seemed like a distant dream. When Jo cried, "My sister!" as she pulled Amy from the frigid water, in my heart, the United Kingdom was still firmly a part of the European Union. As Frederic turned to see Jo clasping her heart during the opera and a slow smile spread across his face, it was as if low rise jeans had never come back in style.

Indeed, there is something so consciously optimistic about Greta Gerwig's movie, so rebelliously pure, that even I—infamous for lamenting the scientific improbability of balloons lifting a whole house during a screening of Up at 12 years old—couldn't find any foothold for cynicism. It almost made me want to give in to my biological drive to reproduce and justify it with "maybe my kid will cure cancer!" or, more accurately in that moment, "maybe my children will put on adorable plays for the other neighborhood children like the little women!" Essentially, the movie dares to exist outside our collective exhaustion and despair, insistent on coaxing us into a kind of childhood delight, but it's also not without political, impactful moments that are presented so cleverly amidst the earnestness that they don't feel part of the monotonous drone of "political" cinema. Of course, part of the credit for the brilliance of Little Women must be given to Louisa May-Alcott, who managed to craft a comforting salve for heartache out of a story that, on the surface, is often devastating. But it was a stroke of genius by Greta Gerwig to make this movie now, in the midst of a time of international tumult, to offer audiences two hours of genuine relief from the brutality of 2019.

If you feel yourself (like me) retreating into your cave of sarcastic jokes, existential dread, and black turtlenecks, go see Little Women and let yourself enjoy it without guilt. It serves as a vital reminder that as long as we have each other, good stories, and deeply-needed respite from the real world, we may be able to gather just enough strength to make 2020 better than 2019. Maybe it'll even be great.

CULTURE

This Haunts Me: Why Does No One Talk About How Terrence Howard Is Absolutely Insane?

Terrence Howard has dedicated his life to making weird shapes that he thinks disprove basic math.

Fox

Terrence Howard is a lunatic.

I say this with no qualms or concerns about misrepresenting someone whom I do not personally know, because his 2015 interview with Rolling Stone really did leave that big of an impression on me.

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The Lighthouse

Last night, sitting in a full-for-a-Monday movie theatre, munching on lukewarm popcorn, I was struck by an odd wave of nostalgia as the first few frames of Roger Eggers' The Lighthouse flashed monochromatically across the screen.

The film tells the story of two weathered men, Ephraim (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas (Willem Dafoe), who have been tasked with keeping a lighthouse, located on the edge of nowhere, running for four weeks. Thomas, the older man, soon proves to be manipulative and short-tempered, bossing the withdrawn Ephraim around and intentionally provoking him. He also refuses to let Ephraim into the light at the top of the lighthouse, causing Ephraim to fixate on gaining access. As the claustrophobic film progresses, tensions rise and the audience begins to wonder which man will lose his mind first. The movie features voracious masturbation scenes, ample violence, disturbing imagery, and even a glance at a mermaid vagina.

The Lighthouse

At first, I thought I was merely reminded of the black and white films of my youth—before quickly remembering that I'm 23-years-old, and the movies of my youth were in full color and featured Third Eye Blind soundtracks, not this string-heavy score playing over images of Willem Dafoe with a tangled beard. But still, I couldn't shake the feeling that, somehow, I'd seen this film before. As the sparse 1890's dialogue and long moments of tense, shadowed eye contact played out before me, the source of my deja vu struck me like one of the thousands of crashing waves featured in the film's B-roll.

Let me invite you for a moment to the hallowed halls of Emerson College: a liberal arts university in Boston, Massachusetts that I attended for four years that offers students concentrations in theatre, communications, and, of course, film. There, in the concrete buildings facing the Boston Commons, hundreds of young men congregate every fall to lie about their favorite movie (no one's favorite film is Citizen Kane, it just isn't), learn how to operate a 16 mm Bolex in order to post shaky, otherwise unusable footage on their Instagrams, and, according to them, mature into the next Quentin Tarantino. That's right, this is a school full of Film Kids™.

Film Kids™ can be spotted easily. Just look for cigarette-stained fingers, a sense of having a divine calling that translates to an introverted self-importance, and the tendency to use "Do you act?" as a pickup line at house parties. Film Kids™ also occasionally make films, though of course not nearly as often as they talk about making films. When a film is actually completed—only when the celestial bodies, the Film Kid's™ parents' credit cards, and the schedule of that one hot acting major all align—there are a few things you can be certain of about said film:

1. There will be no shortage of heavy-handed symbolism (ex. I once saw a student film in which all the female characters wore large phalluses outside their clothes to represent…something, probably.)

2. It will be shot in black and white. Why? Because ART, that's why.

3. There will be a naked woman, even if a female character doesn't appear at any other point in the film.

4. It will, 9 times out of 10, center on some sort of masculine identity crisis.

5. There will be A LOT of close ups on tense faces.

6. The male protagonists will be set up sympathetically, even if they are inherently unsympathetic.

7. There will be several fight scenes.

As I sat watching The Lighthouse, I realized that I had seen this film before, many times, just with a much lower budget and much less famous actors. This was the film that every kid with the beanie made and insisted I see. This was the film that a junior made for his directing class and subsequently invited me to play the role of "girl who lies naked in bed beside protagonist when he receives important phone call in middle of the night." This was every student film made by a white male I'd ever seen during my years at Emerson.

Indeed, Eggers' sophomore film is so heavily stylized, so completely self-important, so steeped in masculine energy, that I was almost tempted to review it positively, in the exact same way I was tempted to tell that beanie wearing Film Kid™ that I loved his movie. Why? Because Film Kids™, like Eggers, have the ability to make non-Film Kids™ feel like they should have loved their work, as if the blatant symbolism and gratuitous, arrogant visual composition must be good because they're just so...much.

The Lighthouse


The Lighthouse practically shouts its themes in your face: sexual repression, guilt, isolation, violent tension turning erotic and then violent again, not to mention the countless allusions to Greek myths, specifically Proteus and Prometheus. But when you start to unpack what exactly all of these cinematic devices come together to say, you inevitably come up with some vague bullsh*t answer about a lighthouse representing an erect appendage and light representing freedom from oneself, or maybe coming or something. Frankly, what the film does offer by way of meaning could have easily been gleaned from the trailer.

While there are plenty of positive things about The Lighthouse, including its masterful creation of tension, often excellent acting from Dafoe and Pattinson, and the film's ability to immerse its audience in a shadowy, grey world of harsh elements, all of this is overshadowed by the extraordinary self-importance that infects every moment of the movie.

So, as I wish I had told that beanie wearing 19-year-old with the Pulp Fiction poster on his wall when I was a sophomore in college, no, I did not like the film. Even beyond its sense of its own grandeur, there was a feeling of exclusivity to the whole movie, a glorifying of the struggle of the white man that I was excluded from just as surely as I was excluded from my college film department's weird house parties. Sure, the film is meant to depict an insular, isolated world; but, frankly, I'm tired of stories that paint white men as sympathetic victims of a cruel universe. I'm tired of seeing movies where the only woman in the film is naked, beautiful, and half-fish. I'm tired of homoeroticism being depicted as a shameful, often violent, impulse. I'm tired of trying to assign some kind of transcendent meaning to two sad little men spending their time making love to holes in their mattresses. I'm tired of having to pretend that I like Film Kids™' weird inaccessible, and pretentious movies.

FILM

10 Best Celebrity Cameos in Movies

Impress your friends by identifying major celebrities in movies.

Dreamworks Pictures

Every movie buff loves a great cameo.

A well-placed cameo can even be the highlight of an already great film. Who doesn't love turning to their movie-watching partner and whisper-shouting, "GADZOOKS! THAT'S (insert person you recognize)!" We've compiled the 10 best movie cameos of all time (in no particular order). Check them out and then go impress your friends with your crazy movie knowledge.

Ben Stiller in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

ben stiller anchorman

Dreamworks Pictures

Anchorman had a ton of great cameos, but none of them beat Ben Stiller as Arturo Mendez of the Spanish Language News Team. Just breathe in that mustache.

FILM

Robert De Niro Is the Real Incel Symbol in "Joker"

The character of Murray Franklin pays homage to cinema's most iconic, violent, disaffected white men.

Tribeca Taxi Driver

Photo by John Angelillo (UPI/Shutterstock)

A failed comedian is a dangerous thing.

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MUSIC

PREMIERE | Lucinda Belle Asks 'Where Have All The Good Men Gone?'

"The girl with the harp is who I am." - Lucinda Belle

Pop-noir singer-songwriter Lucinda Belle premieres "Where Have All The Good Men Gone?" on Popdust. The track releases tomorrow, so you get to listen to it before anyone else.

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