Saturday, December 23, 2023

dolls and monsters


Since I keep seeing best of and award nomination lists including both Poor Things and Barbie at the top, it got me thinking about where they overlap. About female agency and male aggression and entitlement. About sexuality and lack of it. Poor Things was a dreamlike whirl of a movie.  No expense in creating this gorgeous steampunk world through miniaturized sets, lush colors, and over-shouldered Victorian costumes was spared. Nor were the performances of Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, who may be one of the most reviled male characters I've seen in a movie this year (which is a hard bet since I love me some Mark Ruffalo.) Poor Things obviously has more sex and lots of nudity from both genders. Barbie is much more PG-friendly and its adult jokes much more veiled. It's a beautiful spin with Frankenstein vibes but from a distinctly feminine viewpoint. (even stranger that its' from a male filmmaker.)

Barbie, however, too was also about a woman set adrift in a strange and beautiful and sad world. While Bella's world was a lonely and isolated mansion full of adorable and strange hybrid animals, Barbie's was cheery colors and endless optimism in the before world. The real world for Barbie was less vivid and colorful, but for her, somehow more beautiful because of its imperfections. While Bella's world was colorful and awash in surreal imagery, it was darker on the underside and more filled with shadows. Both encounter many of the same obstacles and rewards, though Bella's are far more sensual and violent.

On the other hand, one is a multi-million dollar blockbuster many times over, while Poor Things is a movie based on a novel from the 90s and is still gaining its wings. It's telling that even mid-week last week, at a late showing, the theater was practically full at the Alamo and people seem to be talking even more about it as we close out the year and the Oscar buzz mounts. 

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