Monday, August 5, 2013

7 Movies Not to Watch When You’re Pregnant

When your body is at work 24 hours a day creating another human, you’re going through a lot physically and mentally. But regardless of whether you’re spending this moment marveling at your lovely miracle or cursing the bladder-busting fetus, you’ll probably want to avoid movies that remind you that all this work and anticipation could be for naught. Go ahead and avoid these for the next few months (spoilers ahead).

 1.  Junebug (2005)
This delightful film follows two posh newlyweds on a visit to see the husband’s rural, North Carolina family. It features the most beautiful gospel singing you’ve ever heard and an adorable Amy Adams as the pregnant sister-in-law. She’ll break your heart when she says three words I hope none of us ever have to say: “He was blue.”

2. The Other Woman (2009)
Since this Natalie Portman drama is on Netflix Instant, I had a close call with this one recently. Thank goodness I thought to watch the trailer beforehand. Apparently the main conflict is Portman’s character getting over the death of her infant. Avoid!

3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
I don’t know for sure. I refuse to even watch the trailer. But it’s something about being pregnant with Satan's baby. You’re already having more vivid dreams. Might as well not get any more fucked-up fodder.

4. The Omen (1976)
Again, anything involving Beelzebub and your baby—just give all of that a wide berth (!!). No need for you to be worried about your baby getting switched at birth with the anti-Christ spawn of the Devil and a jackal. And then killing you when you figure it out.

5. Trainspotting (1996)
You probably don’t plan to take up heroin and let your baby die of neglect, but might as well not be exposed to the vision of the bloated baby corpse that skinny Ewan McGregor hallucinates is crawling on the ceiling when he’s detoxing.

6. We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011)
Do you ever worry that, instead of being a better version of you or Michael Phelps, your kid will be a rapist or murderer or libertarian? Well, here’s a movie that will make you worry that you’ll never bond with your child and he’ll become a soulless human who carriers out a Columbine-like massacre. I’ve never seen this, and I probably never will. The book plunged my partner into such a funk that we now look back on the few weeks it took him to finish it as one of the worst rough patches in our relationship.

7. Game of Thrones season three (2013)
It’s better than most movies, OK? You know I’m right. But please, don’t endure Joffrey’s deeper explorations of moral depravity and then get to the episode with the Red Wedding. You just really aren’t in the frame of mind to watch a pregnant woman be fatally, repeatedly stabbed in the belly. Or actually, there’s a bad birth thing in the first season too. Maybe don’t start watching this show right now. You might end up with a baby named Tyrion or Khaleesi.

I hope, for your sake, that you took my word on it and just glanced at the titles here. Now mamas, go wash your brain out with Singin’ in the Rain and Pitch Perfect.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Catching Up with the Trailers: “She’s Having a Baby”

Another entry in the series where I finally watch the movies whose trailers I’ve seen a million times on VHS tapes that were played on a constant loop throughout adolescence. So far, the coming attractions are universally terrible.
Many of us grew up loving and defining our high school experiences through John Hughes films. I still have a hard time rectifying my deeply entrenched nostalgia for the movies that kept me company for untold hours in adolescence with their often troubling themes: the fact that Sixteen Candles makes light of what is objectively a date rape or that The Breakfast Club features some graphic sexual harassment, among other issues. But seeing his 1988 film She's Having a Baby as an adult, there's no internal conflict about identifying exactly what is so absurd and awful about this movie.

Hughes films, many of them rom-coms, tended to end the story right about the time a couple got together. So She’s Having a Baby, which came out a few years after his Brat Pack stride, is the logical next step in these characters’ lives. It starts with high school sweethearts’ wedding day and the mundane horror (only experienced by men, apparently) of settling down into a career and married life after the excitement of courtship is over. 

This isn’t the She’s Having a Baby trailer that I remember. I don’t know if it came before St. Elmo’s Fire or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or something else. The trailer I remember featured a semi-ominous strings score with quick cuts that made it seem like this coming-of-age dramedy was a lot more serious than it turns out to be. Here’s the only trailer I can find online—it’s a lot truer to the movie’s tone.

It’s a terrible movie for many reasons. These are just 10.

1. The protagonist is a milquetoast, mealy mouthed douche. Kevin Bacon is in love with his wife but alternately consumed by either the nightclub-hopping life he thinks singletons enjoy or a massive sense of entitlement as a brilliant-yet-undiscovered writer (by day an ad copywriter). His magnum opus ends up being the story told in this sappy, crappy movie.
2. Despite the fact that all of the main characters supposedly grew up in Chicagoland, the wife, Elizabeth McGovern, is the only one who has an accent. Those naaaaaaging A’s.
3. There’s so little development of why Bacon and McGovern even like each other that we don’t particularly care if their relationship can last despite temptation. See No. 6.
4. The depiction of marriage is insulting to anyone who’s ever been in a relationship, but especially hetero women. This film adds to the cultural narrative that marriage is something that women inherently want and that makes men inherently miserable. When McGovern is given something to do except stare blankly at something, she’s only concerned with nagging Bacon or getting knocked up (and taking the pleasure out of sex). Bonus points for the revelation that McGovern has never, ever, in their yearslong relationship, initiated sex. Except when she went baby crazy.
5. Which brings us to the totally fucked-up theme of McGovern trying to sneakily get pregnant. The trailer above frames this as part of "every married life"—when your lady tells you she’s gone off the pill. Most women don’t just stop using contraceptives without telling their partners. We all probably know a few women who would—but they are few. And probably blood relatives.
6. At one point, the sleazy, bad-influence, bachelor best friend (Alec Baldwin) comes on to McGovern and tells her she’s the only person he’s ever loved. This follows longing glances in the one or two scenes he’s in before this. It’s unbelievable that Baldwin pulls off tortured, unrequited love in the face of McGovern’s just plain wooden performance. But he does! So it’s pretty unsatisfying that she doesn’t go for it. That would have made exactly one unexpected plot point in the whole movie.
7. Speaking of the totally dreamy young Baldwin, anyone who rejects hetero, married, suburban bliss is either sinister or secretly depressed, according to this film. Deep down, Baldwin just wants a nice wife. And his one-time girlfriend, who isn’t interested in the suburbs or tradition, is a condescending jerk who doesn’t even care that her mother is dead. And according to Baldwin, she’s also a “slut.” That’s right, she dared to have sex with him for fun.
8. The tone is all over the place. The scenes of Bacon imagining assenting to suburban-consumer-hell vows during his wedding, seeing his lawn-mowing neighbors break into dance to point out their all-but-choreographed existence, and—a personal favorite—him burning the pages of his book to keep his wife and would-be child warm, are jarring, unfunny, and out of place. Especially when life-threatening stuff turns the movie to tear-jerker territory. Father of the Bride walked this line much more successfully a few years later.
9. There are weird cameos during the ending credits of Hughes-film stars and other stars in character, including folks from Cheers and Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s the cherry on top of a random, inconsistent movie. How does it work in the diegesis that Ferris Bueller and the guys from The Great Outdoors are suggesting names for the baby? Maybe because most Hughes films are set around Chicago?
10. The film is called She’s Having a Baby, but “she” isn’t even pregnant until well over an hour into the 106-minute movie. 

Bechdel Test: Pass, barely
Feminist Grade: F
Overall Grade: D-

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Zero Dark Thirty" and Hollywood Heroines

My thoughts on Maya's dance between masculinity and femininity and carving spaces out for women in film are over on the AAUW blog.