Friday, March 26, 2010

The Review Revue

The film and media review website Pajiba is a favorite among we ladybrains. The site's tagline says it all: Scathing Reviews for Bitchy People. What's not to love? Their reviews are required weekly reading: well-written, punchy and usually quote-worthy. Remember the Twilight review? As it turns out, vampires don't explode in sunlight, they turn into Ziggy Motherf*cking Stardust.

But Pajiba's Monday review of The Runaways was stuffed to the gills with gross, demeaning descriptions of the women onscreen, replete with and bitch-and-whore bombs, almost unreadable past author Brian Prisco's gendered insults. He argues that the film could have, and should have, treated the band members of The Runaways more seriously in the context of women in rock, a good and fair point. But I can barely distill that above the liberal use of words and descriptions that are so hatefully loaded for women.

It's not a coincidence that Prisco also authored the only other Pajiba review that has ever inspired similar ire with we me. In last year's review of Sin Nombre, Prisco writes that a gang leader attempts to rape the film's protagonist because he finds her "alluring." Ah, the rape as a compliment canard. For anyone who hasn't seen the film, in this scene the gang leader is trying to assert his authority on a train packed with terrified immigrants. His attempted rape is a power play. The main character is a pretty girl, but her allure had nothing to do with the attempted assault. The fact that the same gang leader attempts to rape another girl earlier in the film, also to assert his authority over another gang member, makes this statement even more bizarre and incorrect.

Ugly women get raped. Fat women get raped. Old women get raped. Frumpy women get raped. Disabled women get raped. Any woman who isn't considered traditionally beautiful in the very, very narrow American standard--they get raped, too. So do men of all descriptions. And it's not because they flirted or dressed slutty or drank. It's because some dudes didn't treat them like humans.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Equality Myth

This Newsweek story about women journalists filing a class-action lawsuit against, yes, Newsweek, for gender discrimination has enthralled this ladybrain all morning. They hooked me by featuring an amazing picture of the women's lawyer--D.C.'s own Eleanor Holmes Norton.

In the feature, three young Newsweek writers explore what has changed for women in the workplace since 1970, and what has stayed the same. They do a great job capturing the subtlety of sexism in the workplace--suffocated by legal ramifications, the sexism we deal with is more insidious and harder to punish.

The authors have set up their own blog. I'm especially interested to read an essay from one of the authors about her parents' "failed experiment in gender neutrality."

Also, I have no idea why I now receive Newsweek. It started showing up in my mailbox last month, with my married name on it. Thank you mystery magazine-sponsor.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Guess what's on the rise in our "post-feminist" world?

The slaughter of babies, for being born female. As a note, where's the "pro-life" outrage on this subject? Absent, naturally, because they're actually just all about uterus control.

Monday, March 15, 2010

potency, passivity and the performance of gender

So I read two really great articles today, from two different locations in the feminist blogosphere.

One was this one, from Elle, at Shakesville, on the ways in which human reproductive processes are gendered. She makes some really excellent points about the ways in which sperm are anthropomorhised, expressed as active and even lionized, while the egg is described as the passive recipient of sperm and a prize to be won; the female reproductive system as a whole is expressed as landscape to be feared but ultimately conquered.

The other was an article by Amanda Hess of Washington City Paper's The Sexist about the dangers of *always* defending "choice" specifically the "choice" of women to "vajazzle" (google it if you must), without considering the wider sexist culture that constrains the choices that women can make without consequences. especially regarding our appearance.

The quote, from Hess' piece, that got me thinking about these two things together was this:

When it comes to personal appearance, it’s no coincidence that femininity is marked by performance, while masculinity is just as often defined by men not performing things. Shaving your body hair is feminine; not shaving is masculine. Plucking, waxing, or bleaching stray facial hairs is feminine; growing a few days of stubble is masculine. Applying makeup is feminine; not painting your face is masculine. Dying, styling, blow-drying, and curling your hair is feminine; keeping a low-maintenance hair cut is masculine.

Funny, that. In most cases, men are portrayed as active and women as passive. Men DO. Women wait, watch, motivate, receive action, etc. The one exception to this is the performance of gender. In this realm, women DO and it is masculine to NOT DO.

My thought on it is that it goes something like this: women, "the fairer sex" are bombarded by the images associated with their ideal form as perceived by the makers of messages and images: men. So they achieve that ideal form by any means necessary because of the rewards that can come with compliance with the ideals, fleeting though they may be. As Hess points out, there are punishments for women who don't conform and perform. Social construction has taken things that are human (like having eyebrows and under arm hair) and made them masculine. So in order to perform her "natural" gender, a women must alter her natural state.

In this way we're at a point where (mostly, there are exceptions in the particulars) women are the ones who must perform their gender in time consuming rituals. Women perform gender, while men just HAVE it, by virtue of being the default human (except trans men, in the cultural reasoning at large-- trans men must perform masculinity, regardless of what the trans men themselves may think. And I'd love to hear that, since I lack the perspective to deal with that issue in any complete or compelling way).

This is all part of the idea that masculinity is defined in hierarchical contradistinction to femininity, and the problems that causes.

Just musing.

ill doctrine

Jay Smooth, who is rad, has a great video up about racism in pop culture and how -- while it's interesting and can be an enlightening discussion to have -- it distracts us from looking at the broader, more structural and systemic race issues. Incidentally, I think some of his points carry quite nicely to sexism. Check it out.

F_ck Sh_t Stack

Reggie Watts: Innovative, freethinking, funny, and so musically talented I can barely stand it. In possibly the coolest video of 2010, if not the next decade, Watts effortlessly dismisses all the bullshit deeply entrenched in popular music. Numerous issues surrender to his smooth flow, but the most satisfying is his slam on the objectivity of women.

LOOSEWORLD x Waverly Films: Reggie Watts in F_CK SH_T STACK from LOOSEWORLD on Vimeo.

Reggie Watts will be opening for Conan O'Brien's Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour, starting this April.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

and K-big's movie didn't even follow THE FORMULA

The formula as stated in this trailer, that is.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow Takes Top Honors at the Oscars

By Jove, she's done it! Sunday night, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. The film for which she earned the honor, The Hurt Locker, also took home the award for Best Picture, restoring this ladybrain's faith in the film industry (besting alternately mediocre and just plain awful films like Avatar and A Serious Man).

Watch her acceptance speech here, and see more analysis from our go-to hollywood blog.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Serious Man: A Ladybrain Review

When this ladybrain first attempted, under duress, to catch A Serious Man at the local indie theater, she narrowly escaped seeing the wrong film, the similarly titled A Single Man. This mixup--which tragically ended with a viewing of the God-awful Flags of Our Fathers at the AFI--is telling, in that the new Cohen brothers film A Serious Man is yet another completely forgettable film about a white guy who hates his life in the suburbs.

The poor guy. He's up for tenure at his university. He's got a stay-at-home wife, of whose state of mind he is so oblivious he has no idea she's involved with another man and preparing to divorce him. His kids are assholes who walk all over him, because he lets them. His rabbis are alternately dismissive or moon-faced. His lawyers are expensive. His brother is a loaf. His name is Larry.

A Serious Man opens with a puzzling vignette that takes place in an Eastern European shtetl, telling a several-minute tale in Yiddish about a married couple who may or may not have come across a dybbuk, or a possessed corpse. This boring Cohen-brothers-fabricated folktale has admittedly nothing to do with the rest of the film, and yet it is the first thing the audience has to sit through.

Thus, after the atmosphere of ennui is sufficiently set, we enter a Midwest suburb to see just how suck-tackular life is for Larry in the suburbs, and how much worse it can progressively get. Larry endures and endures without managing to learn anything or prove himself along the way, and then receives some more bad news before a ridiculous and abrupt in medias res ending. For this ladybrain, the ending made the film even more infuriatingly bad. Thus, audiences spend the entire film in frustration.

And Larry's life is frustrating, it's hard not to pity the guy. But what is more frustrating than his family, friends, colleagues and congregation is the fact that Larry is a lilly-livered worm of a human. He takes it all lying down. He does nothing to help himself.

Some have said this story is supposed to be a modern-day parallel to Job. By that comparison Larry's plights are even more eye-roll inducing. Does anyone remember what happened to Job? His entire family was murdered. He had painful boils. He didn't have a neighbor who conveniently sunbathed naked.

If it wasn't clear already, women don't play a particularly positive role in Larry's life. In fact, they're right at the front of the pack making Larry miserable. His wife Judith is a cheater and a manipulator, who steam rolls and intimidates Larry with condescension and taunting. His daughter Sarah is a vapid ingrate and a thief, whose only joys in life are washing her hair and saving up for a nose job. The only women who don't lead to Larry's downfall either encourage him to seek advice from ultimately counter-productive rabbis or get him stoned and provide naked-fantasy-material.

But ultimately, his family and friends can't be held responsible for Larry's fate. If he'd grow a backbone, maybe we'd care more about his trials and tribulations. If only this film had a fraction of the insight or humor of other Cohen brothers films, which are some of this ladybrain's favorite films of all time.

Feminist grade: F

The few women who are in this film are by turns malicious, vapid, selfish or just fodder for sex dreams. Since this movie is all about Larry, it fails the Bechdel test.

Moviegoer grade: D-

That this film was among the 10 nominees for Best Picture is a complete joke.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Hurt Locker: A Ladybrain Review

"War is a drug."--Chris Hedges, journalist and war correspondent

And so aptly begins one of the most talked about movies of the season, The Hurt Locker, directed by filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. This film has generally been accepted by the public as “the kickass war movie directed by a woman” but to any Ladybrain, such glib assessments are markedly deficient. In truth, the movie is not about war at all. It’s a complex and cavernous character study of men facing oblivion.

Set around 2004, Sgt. 1st Class William James (Jeremy Renner) assumes responsibility as bomb disposal specialist in Iraq with Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and Spc. Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) comprising the rest of Bravo Company, which is currently stationed in Baghdad with 39 days left of deployment. It’s a slow and agonizing countdown of days as these three men of contrasting mentalities are all too aware that they must work together or die. Sandborn is as precise as the playbook he follows; believing his only chance of survival is to follow the rules. Eldridge is young, panicky, and ashamed of his own fear. But their new team leader James plunges headfirst into his bomb disposal duties with a cool and efficient intensity that alarms the rest of his unit. They don’t know that James is an artist, a genius, a connoisseur with eyes only for his craft. As the movie develops, it becomes apparent that, for the same reason the painter paints or the writer writes, James reaps an intangible fulfillment with each explosive he deactivates, sometimes at the expense and safety of his team. And so, the spellbinding heart of The Hurt Locker lies not in the explosiveness of war, but in the precise unraveling of these men as they exist in terrible danger; the exposure of human nature.

Now, that’s not to say that this film isn’t kickass (a technical term). The Hurt Locker is expertly executed, with exceptional combat sequences and explosions. Indeed, watching the pebbles fly during a super slow motion explosion makes this Ladybrain’s hair stand up on end, even on repeated viewings. Jeremy Renner is completely deserving of his Best Actor recognition as he expressly and seemingly effortlessly conveys an indefinable character. The steady and genuine pacing creates actual suspense that is a real treat compared to the hysterical exaggeration, false alarms, and trickery of recent cinema. The photography is stylistic and yet hyperrealistic, and coupled with the intimate portraits of the characters, involves the audience as if they, too, are in terrible danger as the fourth member of the U.S. Army’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit. Ultimately, The Hurt Locker is a profound and beautiful film, well beyond a simple exercise in craft by reaching new heights of cinema and human expression.

And it was directed by a woman, Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow recently became the first woman to win Best Director in the Director’s Guild of America Awards earlier this year, and she could be the first woman to win Best Director at the Academy Awards in two days. There have only been three previous women nominated for Best Director in the history of the Academy: Lina Wertmuller for 1976's Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for 1993's The Piano, and Sofia Coppola for 2003's Lost In Translation. But just because a film is directed by a woman, does that mean it is inherently feminist? This Ladybrain thinks not. The Hurt Locker fails the Bechdel Test, as it is specifically about the human nature of three men. The only woman in the film (besides screaming bystanders) is James’s wife, who he resents for supposedly shackling him into a life of fatherhood and domesticity. Somehow this Ladybrain doesn’t think it was all his wife's fault.

But is it because there was a woman at the helm that this film, that it surpasses many others in the exploration of the human condition? Would a male filmmaker take the same material and inadvertently generate a more “kickass” rendition of The Hurt Locker with less of the complexity of humanity and more of the violence and war? While interesting to think about, these questions are generally unanswerable. Defining a filmmaking style by the filmmaker’s gender is a decades-old prejudice that is the reason why there are not so many prominent female directors out there today. It’s simply thus: Bigelow has made great strides for female artists out there, and certainly not in the “women can make war movies, too” sort of way. But rather, would The Hurt Locker have the severe impact it does without the direction of dedicated artist Kathryn Bigelow?

Absolutely not.

Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director at the 2010 Academy Awards!

Feminist grade: C

It fails the Bechdel test but is a huge boon for female filmmakers.

Moviegoer grade: A

An excellent example of the artistry of cinema.

Up in the Air: A Ladybrain Review

One of the risks of doubling the number of films in the Best Picture category is that some of the 10 films, at least in this year's crop, start to seem mighty familiar.

Such is the case, as alluded to in previous reviews, with Jason Reitman's Up in the Air. Based on books set decades apart, it's unfortunate that two films up for the Best Picture Oscar in the same year are so similar. Without giving too much away, try not to see this film and An Education in the same weekend.

Up in the Air follows the story of corporate axe man Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), who travels over 300 days a year to do the dirty work in company layoffs. A whiz at his job, Bingham revels in the distance his lifestyle gives him from relationships. So entrenched is he in his at-an-arms-length way of life, Bingham even gives motivational talks encouraging people not to weigh themselves down with people and possessions. But his streamlined swagger stalls when two women enter his life: fellow frequent flyer Alex (Vera Farmiga) and enthusiastic young coworker Natalie (Anna Kendrick).

When his boss assigns Ryan to bring ambitious but uptight Natalie along on his next round of firings to learn the ropes, she soon finds out she has little experience to back up her industry-changing ideas, specifically video-conference firing. While Natalie starts to learn about the personal, ugly side of the business, Ryan starts to question his aversion to settling down as he falls hard for his fellow road junkie Alex.

Thus, Reitman sets the stage for an often frustrating front-row seat into one travelling man's mid-life crisis. What is he running from on the road? Why is he estranged from his family? The problem with these questions is that Ryan as a character is that, until the very end, there's not much about him that is redeeming. He's got a smarmy way about him that allows him to be very successful at firing people, and apparently loses no sleep at night over it. We're supposed to think his travelling-man quirks, like racial profiling, are cute peccadilloes, but instead they come off as yet more chips on some repressed white guy's shoulder. Oh, how sad that this man who makes a living firing people is a commitment-phobe. He creates his own issues and isolates himself. He lives out of a carry-on, and then he's surprised when the women he's involved with move on, or when they don't see him as settling-down material, or when his siblings resent him. For much of the film, Ryan's character is one that the audience isn't necessarily sympathetic with. He's a professional smarm who avoids commitment and responsibility. His lonely life is a chosen one, so what's to pity?

The only thing that really redeems Ryan's character is his relationship with his young co-worker, Natalie. Although he first views her as a dangerous innovator that threatens to disrupt his free-flying lifestyle, the two serve as catalysts in each other's lives, each mentoring the other to important next steps professionally and personally.

But given that Ryan is such a lukewarm character, it's remarkable how Up in the Air keeps the audience caring. Much of the credit for that should go to the actors, who pulled out amazing performances, especially relative newcomer Kendrick, who up until now has been relegated to roles like the catty friend in the Twilight films.

Now let's look at the feminist issues at play here. Up in the Air does pass the Bechdel test, but not with flying colors. The two main female characters, Alex and Natalie, independent career women though they may be, still serve only as catalysts in the overall experience of Ryan, and have very little contact with each other, and nearly none that doesn't directly involve Ryan and talk of the perfect man.

Natalie's plot path follows some of the familiar themes of reining in assertive women and putting them in their place (see Taming of the Shrew or any number of John Hughes films). In this theme, uptight women need to be humiliated and taken down a peg so they can let loose, which is what they want to do anyway. As a highly-educated newcomer with innovative ideas about how to streamline layoffs with digital options, Natalie makes a huge splash at Ryan's office, but he soon teaches her that there's more to the industry than theory. When Natalie can't stomach the dark nature of the job, unable to remove herself emotionally, she quits. These are typical assumptions about women and work--they're too emotional or weak to do certain things. This would seem especially troubling, except for the fact that Natalie never wanted to do this job. She followed her boyfriend to Omaha and took a job that she was overqualified for and uninterested in, and she regrets the decision. But she's talented and ambitious enough to get out of Omaha and on to bigger things once she faces the truth about her job and her relationship.

But Natalie's career path could have easily mirrored Ryan's and even Alex's. In Alex's case, she's even found a way to feed her love for travelling and also have a strong sense of home, much as the oblivious Ryan finds that inconceivable because of his own personal failures. Although she breaks Ryan's heart, Alex also shows him what is possible--to have your cake and eat it, too. And although some, like this ladybrain, would take moral issue with her approach to on-the-road relationships, this film doesn't demonize her for her sexual decisions.

Feminist grade: C-

It barely passes the Bechdel test but does promote women's career independence.

Moviegoer grade: C

This has been the most boring review to write of the Oscar season, and we haven't even gotten to A Serious Man.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Up: A Ladybrain Review

Pixar's 10th feature film had big shoes to fill, released in the wake of films like WALL-E, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.

But Pixar delivered another home run with their newest installment, Up, which tells the story of Carl Fredricksen, a widower who dreamed of exploring South America with his wife, Ellie. After her death, Carl becomes a loner curmudgeon who resents the rampant development of his community, earning the ire of greedy developers who want his property. When a scuffle with a construction worker turns accidentally violent, a judge orders Carl to relocate to a retirement home. Defying the order, retired balloon-seller Carl attaches thousands of helium balloons to his house and takes off, due south to fulfill his and Ellie's dream of living in Paradise Falls, South America.

But Carl's escape and repose is soon interrupted. Little did he know that overzealous Wilderness Explorer Russell was trapped on Carl's porch during takeoff--tethering the boy's fate to Carl's adventure. A series of fantastical, hilarious and heartwarming escapades through the beautiful landscape of South America's tepuis makes for a unique and amazing story of grief, redemption and talking dogs.

Pixar always walks the line so gracefully between a film that kids will enjoy and adults will appreciate. The humor and themes in Up are no exception. This ladybrain can't predict what kids will love about this film, but it's easy to see what adults like. It's funny. It's interesting. It's beautifully animated with eye-popping scenery. And it deals with and comments on important themes.

Agism plays a huge role in the plot, exposing the unfortunate reality that the elderly in America are often thrown aside to make progress and money-grubbing more convenient. The mutually enriching friendship that Carl and Russell develop is a great example of what young people and old people can give and show one another. For Carl, Russell is a friend who can share in adventures and show Carl that his life isn't over yet. For Russell, Carl is a father figure, a mentor and a companion for an awkward boy who shares the same appreciation for exploring.

And guess what? Russell is Asian, and this ladybrain could find no bizarre or offensive suggestions regarding his ethnicity. Well, that's refreshing.

Although Up fails the Bechdel test, there are a few feminist issues that Carl's wife Ellie introduces. She is a mouthy tomboy who endears herself to Carl through her kindness and sense of adventure. When they're older, she has a career as a zookeeper. When she and Carl discover they can't have kids, they're both sad, but they move on and have a very happy life together. For the few minutes that Ellie is onscreen, she makes a moving impression, and her presence is felt throughout the film in her influence on Carl, and his overwhelming grief at losing her.

Up is a lot of fun to watch, remember and quote. More than one talking dog quote has found its way in to this ladybrain's go-to icebreakers, along with "You can call me Nanerpuss, Nanerpuss!" or "And I want my scalps."

Feminist grade: C

It fails the Bechdel test but the character Ellie is a profound and positive influence throughout the film, even if it's mostly in spirit.

Moviegoer grade: A

One of this ladybrain's favorite films of the year, a total joy to watch.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Inglourious Basterds: A Ladybrain Review

Quentin Tarantino considers his latest film, the obnoxiously misspelled Inglourious Basterds, the "best thing he's ever written." That's saying a lot, when one considers Tarantino's kick-ass filmography, especially since he is known most for not just stories but dialogue. There's nothing that annoys this ladybrain more than mindless hero-worship and name dropping, so don't get the wrong impression. In fact, this ladybrain wasn't keen to see Inglourious Basterds on this basic premise: Tarantino has become exponentially more popular in the past few years, and thus must have also become exponentially less interesting (this ladybrain's love for Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill notwithstanding). Having skipped over Death Proof amid poor reviews, this misspelled magnum opus thus was reviewed by skeptical lady-eyes.

Inglourious Basterds follows a French Jew, Shoshanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent) and a Jewish-American militia headed by Lt. Aldo "and I want my scalps" Raine (Brad Pitt) in an alternate history of World War II, emphasis on alternate. The militia, who call themselves the Basterds, go behind enemy lines in France to kill, torture and intimidate Nazis. They intersect with Shoshanna in 1944 Paris, where she owns a cinema and is passing as a Gentile named Emmanuelle. Much to her chagrin, a Nazi posterchild takes a liking to her. But after he arranges for a propaganda film to premiere at her cinema, Shoshanna sees a perfect opportunity for revenge against the Nazis for murdering her family.

While it may not have the staying power of other Tarantino classics, this is a very interesting film, and not just because of the cathartic Nazi slayings (including Hitler himself). Tarantino finds a way to make the sometimes painfully familiar Holocaust story line enthralling, especially by capturing the paranoia and paralyzing fear that a fair-haired, blue-eyed Jewish woman endures every day by living in Nazi-occupied Paris. Tarantino allows the stress and tension of those scenes, the most memorable of which involve Col. Hans "the Jew hunter" Landa (Christoph Waltz), to build far beyond the threshold audiences are used to. But the fact that he can enthrall and ellicit this kind of gut reaction shows what an amazing filmmaker he is.

And, to his credit, Tarantino pays homage to these French and German story lines by avoiding the trademark American arrogance of assuming any foreign characters would speak English in their foreign homes, albeit with a slight accent. In this film, American characters speak English, and their ignorance of other tongues is chastized and then made an ongoing joke. The Europeans speak English only either to Americans, or in the chilling opening scene, to speak plainly without being understood by others.

The colors, landscapes, costumes and music are tremendous. The acting is impeccable, with the notable exception of basically all the Basterds except Pitt (who is more of a caricature here) and a truly ridiculous and embarrassing cameo by Mike Myers. The inexplicable casting of every out of his league character-actor-who-has-ever-played-a-geek as a Basterd, including a guy from Freaks and Geeks and Ryan from The Office, as well as Tarantino's buddy and a proud forefather of the torture porn genre, Eli Roth. Really, for a film named after this motley crew, it was surprising how anonymous most of the Basterds were, other than being a group of non-athletic looking skinny dudes who can inexplicably kick every Nazi troop's asses. Other than their dear leader and Roth's Sgt. Donny Donowitz who, try not to laugh out loud, is feared above no one else as the mighty, strong, ruthless "Bear Jew." BOO! Roth is admittedly a woman-hating scuz bucket and his black eyes are super creepy but he's not exactly Goliath. He's super scary when you contemplate what his work says about women. But anyone can hit Nazis with a bat. Come on.

Whenever the Americans aren't onscreen distracting us from the more interesting plotlines about Shoshanna and German double-agent Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), we get to see some truly remarkable performances by Waltz as a disturbingly effective and calm Nazi enforcer, Laurent as a strong and resilient survivor and from Kruger as a German actress feeding information to the allies.

All the same, the depiction of these leading ladies is still somewhat fraught. The film manages to abysmally fail the Bechdel test even though it features two clever, charming young women. How can that be? Well, judging from Tarantino's other films, he tends to write female characters who surround themselves exclusively with men--they're sufficiently socially deviant that they apparently can't relate to any female friends or family members. Think of the Uma Thurman characters alone. Kill Bill's The Bride and Pulp Fiction's Mia Wallace are both loners. They're wives and mothers but still deviants--one is an assassin, the other a cokehead.

Similarly, Shoshanna and Bridget are both very beautiful, commanding women, who aren't attached to a husband or father, but at the same are surrounded by men in their social and professional lives. Shoshanna inherits a cinema from an offscreen "aunt" and runs it independently with her employee and lover Marcel. Other than Marcel, Shoshanna only interacts only with Nazi soldiers (not by choice), and she seems completely at ease as a professional, if not as a Jew in hiding. She is stylish and acerbic, qualities that charm her Nazi admirer until he is tired of being rebuffed. But even when threatened, Shoshanna uses her cunning to gain the advantage and protect herself, although a hint of sympathy afterward spells her doom.

The beautiful and lively Bridget uses her fame and acting skills to help the Allies get closer to Hitler and top Nazi officials, but the same charm that makes her double-agent life possible also puts her under a cloud of suspicion to the Basterds and Germans alike. A mark of her fame and her feminine wardrobe are what lead Landa to suspect Bridget, and when he confronts her, he punishes her with vigor and gendered insults that he wouldn't bestow upon a male double-agent.

All told, Inglourious Basterds is an interesting flick, and worth seeing, but it surely won't hold up to Tarantino's older, better films.

Feminist grade: D

It fails the Bechdel test, and punishes its leading ladies for their sympathy and cunning, respectively.

Moviegoer grade: C+

The parts that focus on French and German characters are head and shoulders better than the distractingly bad American Basterds scenes. There are some cool elements at play here, but ultimately it's a notch below Best Picture quality.