3 generations

It feels backwards to say that a movie about a trans teen doesn’t belong in 2017. But in the case of 3 Generations, it’s true. The family dramedy stars Elle Fanning as transgender teen boy Ray. Ray wants to undergo hormone therapy to begin the process of realigning the sex he was assigned at birth to match the male gender he identifies with. Naomi Watts plays Ray’s supportive but handwringing mom Maggie, and Susan Sarandon plays Ray’s grandma Dolly, an old school feminist who doesn’t understand why Ray can’t just be a lesbian like her. It’s a cute set-up, the idea of modernizing your typical quirky, family-focused indie fare (à la Little Miss Sunshine) to reflect the times. But despite its promise, there is nothing modern about 3 Generations and its approach to trans representation.

The Gaby Dellal-directed film, which hits theaters May 5, feels like a piece of palatable pop culture that would’ve been much more valuable had it hit theaters 5 or 10 years ago: An innocuous, unthreatening vehicle for introducing un-woke swaths of the general public to the trans community. (See! Trans people are just like us!) The movie begins on the premise that Maggie has to get Ray’s absentee father (Tate Donovan) to sign papers allowing Ray to start taking testosterone. (By the way, speaking as someone whose teen brother transitioned over the past few years, this is completely unrealistic — but we have bigger fish to fry here.)...



Is Free State Of Jones Another White Savior Movie?

Free State of Jones may, for many people, be the first Civil War drama they've seen that tells an anti-Confederate story from the viewpoint of a white Southerner — a valuable perspective that in itself makes the movie worth seeing. It’s based on the forgotten and fascinating true story of Newton Knight — played here like a Southern Robin Hood by Matthew McConaughey, his movie-star sheen scuffed up with a big, bushy beard and historically accurate teeth — a farmer and Confederate army medic. Disillusioned by war and the Confederate army looting his neighbors' farms, he deserts and forges a rebel coalition of escaped slaves and poor whites tired of fighting a "rich man's war" for them. (Why die in the name of slavery when you don't own any slaves?) Their camp, deep in the Mississippi bayou, is an idyllic enclave of freedom and peace amidst the carnage of war and enslavement that eventually becomes a threat to the Confederacy as its ranks grow, emerging from the swamp to claim towns for its self-declared nation-state.

Essentially, it’s a messy movie about an even messier stretch of ugly American history that would’ve fared better as a prestige miniseries. And even two hours and 19 minutes isn’t enough to cover the sprawling ground it wants to: slavery, racism, class wars in the South, emancipation, apprenticeship laws, Reconstruction, Antebellum, interracial relationships, Black voting rights, 20th-century miscegenation laws, the KKK, and more. There are four or five great movies wrestling for the focus in Free State of Jones, stories seeded but not given any room to grow...



The burden we place on particular women in entertainment is unfairly heavy. If there were a couple dozen Lena Dunhams and Amy Schumers — famous, funny women who do not fill the mold of the ultra-thin, refined actress — then these two women's every move and project wouldn’t be so hyper-scrutinized or expected to live up to such damn high expectations. When we stake the viability of women-driven studio comedies on single stars and films, it's impossible for them please us all, every time. But the avoidance of tired racial stereotypes? You’d think that would be a little easier.

Snatched, written by Ghostbusters and The Heat scribe Katie Dippold and directed by Jonathan Levine, stars Amy Schumer as Emily, a directionless, narcissistic millennial preoccupied with taking selfies and doing the bare minimum to get by in life. She gets dumped by her asshole boyfriend (a hilarious Randall Park, who I wish were in the movie past the 20-minute mark) and is stuck with a nonrefundable trip for two to Ecuador. Nobody will go with her, so she decides to invite her laughably cautious worrywart mom Linda, played by Goldie Hawn, in her return to the big screen after 15 years...


legally blonde.jpg

I grew up in a house defined by strong, independent women — five of them, to my father’s delight — but that doesn’t mean that the words “feminism” or “sexism” meant a damn thing to me. Maybe I was a particularly ignorant kid, but I’m going to guess the same is true of most little girls, actually. Whsen’s the last time you saw a 10-year-old girl with her nose in a copy of The Feminine Mystique? They’re not a terribly woke population — yet. 

But, at age 10, I encountered my own Betty Friedan. She was clothed in hot-pink and dipped in sparkles, things that caught the attention of my young eyes. Elle Woods was like a real-life Barbie. While I realize the terrible irony of my first feminist role model looking like Barbie (our culture’s problematic fascination with the Mattel doll deserves a lengthy analysis of its own), that’s not the point. The point is that Legally Blonde was my own version of Feminism 101.

We all know the story. Elle is a bubbly sorority girl whose boyfriend Warner dumps her before jetting off to Harvard Law School, because he needs a serious girlfriend now. Elle decides to prove she can be the kind of girl Warner wants by getting into Harvard Law, and that she does — studying her butt off to a 179 on her LSATs and convincing the admissions office that her vegan-panty fundraising is totally relevant. At Harvard, nobody takes Elle seriously — not her professors or her classmates, and especially not Warner’s new fiancée Vivian (Selma Blair). Elle flounders but finds friends — and, ultimately, a purpose much greater than getting her boyfriend back: helping to defend a fitness icon (Ali Larter) in a tough case...


the bad batch

Last week, we mourned the six-year anniversary of the day we lost one of the greatest TV characters of all time, Khal Drogo. (Shame on you if you missed it.) The Khal was a complicated man — terrifying, sexy, mildly insane, surprisingly deep, violent, poetic — but ultimately a great one. He was played to literal perfection by strapping actor Jason Momoa, who put his heart and soul into Drogo's grunts and snarls.(Please, try to imagine literally anyone else in that role.) All that was ripped away from us in an instant when George R.R. Martin (and whatever heartless bastards are running things at HBO) decided it would be a good idea to kill off a goddamn Game of Thrones icon.

But dry your tears: the second coming of Khal Drogo is here. Jason Momoa plays a reincarnation of the Dothraki king in his new film The Bad Batch, a cannibal thriller/black rom-com from Ana Lily Amanpour and a loopy, beautiful trip. It's set in a dystopian future — a surreal world of sun-scorched savagery, where mainstream society’s convicts and rejects (the "Bad Batch" of humans) build their own ramshackle mini-civilizations in the barren desert south of Texas. Amanpour's vivid universe — think Mad Max meets Grindhouse, set at an interminable Burning Man festival where the fresh water and civility ran out years ago — is enhanced by an intoxicating soundtrack and wildly entertaining supporting cast of characters, including a pornstached Keanu Reeves and mute Jim Carrey...