by Cole Hutchison
Them’s fightin’ words. An immortal verbal throwdown barked out by the true queen of action cinema, delivered from the steel womb of an artificial exoskeleton just before it’s maneuvered with equal parts strength and grace through what still holds up as one of the greatest final battles in film history. Ellen Ripley was Imperator Furiosa before most of the film-going world was prepared to acknowledge the patriarchal status quo of modern society, let alone dial in to its sly, joyful subversion by what ostensibly presents itself as another balls-to-the-wall blockbuster. James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens isn’t really a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 masterpiece of isolated, sweat-drenched terror; it’s a tonal inversion orchestrated and delivered with all of the subtlety and nuance of a robot split gruesomely in half by a hulking insectoid behemoth. It’s an action flick down to its linen, and the rare one that never dumbs itself down too dramatically in its mission to never quit its grinnin’. It passes the Bechdel test by default because all of its characters—be they male, female or pre-pubescent—yell at each other almost exclusively about survival, guns, and how to survive without guns. Its predecessor relied on the highly-sexualized queasiness of H.R. Geiger’s iconic character and landscape designs to invoke an inevitable musing on the unwanted pregnancy/rape survival undertones of its barebones story of a female laborer’s desperate attempts to reject the violent penetration of her stalker/attacker and avoid the harsh, impersonal destiny of becoming just another doomed incubator. Aliens doesn’t give a single flying fuck about gender issues. Cameron’s film is concerned with one thing: “WHERE. THEY. ARE.”
by John S
IT’S LIKE THIS: A little known cinematic rule called the Bechdel Test requires a film to have: (1) at least two female characters, who (2) actually talk to each other, and (3) they have to chat about something other than the men in the film. I don’t have to tell you that most summer movies, with their testosterone tsunamis and penis-measuring extravaganzas (figuratively-speaking), utterly fail this test. One of the few exceptions is today’s review.
It is the remake / reimagining / rewhatever of the 1979 Australian post-apocalyptic cult classic Mad Max, which starred Mel Gibson in the titular role. And it is set in the desert. And it’s full of grimy desert people with white face paint, making them look like some cannibal native tribe in the jungles of New Guinea. Except we’ve already established that they’re smack-dab in the middle of the Sahara or some other barren wasteland. Could also be New Mexico after a Nuclear War. Hard to tell.
by Norm Nielsen
Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 Death Proof gets an A+ on the Bechdel Test. It’s a female talk fest punctuated by two exceptionally well-crafted car stunt sequences. Death Proof‘s eight female leads talk to one another at length about their careers, their friendship with one another, their sex lives, their tastes, and their pasts. They enjoy hanging out with one another. This being a Tarantino film, their talk is profanity riddled, politically incorrect, and often really funny. The women are badass. To emphasize the point, one character, Shanna (Jordan Ladd), wears a t-shirt emblazoned with BADASS CINEMA under an image of Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill’s Tura Satana. Shanna’s t-shirt is a metaphor that neatly summarizes Death Proof. It is a 113-minute rock-n-roll infused homage to many genres of 1960s and 1970s badass exploitation film.
by John S
WARNING: Some SPOILERS.
Just over three years ago in late 2012, the James Bond franchise was riding a wave of popularity higher than any since the early glory days of Goldfinger and Thunderball in the mid-1960s. Skyfall, the 23rd entry in this longest-running active franchise in cinema history, was released that November and proved to be immensely popular with critics and audiences alike. To be frank, some of its plot details weren’t exactly original, having been cribbed from other franchises (the hard drive with MI-6 operatives’ identities is basically the NOC List from the first Mission: Impossible movie) and even previous Bond films (the element of M having an expanded role with her past coming back to haunt her, courtesy of a villain with whom she has personal ties, was first used in the very underrated 19th entry, The World is Not Enough). Still, Skyfall used these tropes deftly and took enough liberties of its own with the tried-and-true-and-therefore-not-always-fresh “Bond Formula.”