Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Tag: film theory

Marlene Dietrich’s face: feminine power and the subversion of gender norms

shanghai express marlene dietrich

Numerous homages have been written about Marlene Dietrich. She had incredible star power that is unmatched by basically anyone else. I’m not saying that Dietrich was the greatest star that ever existed, but quite possibly the strongest star persona ever constructed. Dietrich is a dream, and a powerful point of identification for women, especially because she so frequently bridges the gap between femininity and masculinity – not just in her appearance, but in her behavior.  Read the rest of this entry »

Animal behavior: Creatures on film

au hasard balthazar bresson donkey

Making sense of our animal companions

I’ve been wanting to write something about animals on film for a long time now. I’m not talking about kids-oriented, Air Bud– or Homeward Bound-type fare – not to knock either of those movies, because they’re not un-related to the ones I’m going to discuss, nor are they bad. However, whenever I bring up this topic, these are typically the examples I hear. When you do think of animals on film, it’s striking that they appear most frequently in either children’s movies or documentaries. We either revel in their otherness, or turn them into humanized talking beasts. Not surprisingly, both iterations of the animal are loved by viewers of all ages.

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B-Movie Television: the Feminist Frontier (Part 2)

CONDEMNED-WOMEN

A completely unrelated, but relevant B-movie poster of a movie I haven’t actually seen (dir. Lew Landers, 1938)

I ended my last post by saying that commercial cinema is failing women. Allow me to reiterate: As it exists now, the film industry is a betting game, and studios just don’t seem to be banking on women in creative roles, despite the fact that we still make up about half of the audience. Why not? There are many reasons. However, in my last post I argued the disparity may have something to do with attributing so much of a film’s worth to just one individual. In an ideal world, this recognition wouldn’t hold anyone back. But when producers need to make a return on investment, it may be pure sexism that guides their decision to fund one project over another.

In a now roughly 4-year-old article, the often contentious (I mean that as a compliment) Manohla Dargis bemoaned the lack of women in the industry. In the article, she notes how a box office failure doesn’t necessarily spell out the end for a male director. But for a woman, it can potentially wreck a career. Studios appear to be more forgiving to male directors – male auteurs, rather – who have a vision. However, the Hollywood machine doesn’t grant visionary women the same benefit of the doubt.  Read the rest of this entry »