Potpourri: Contributions on Other Sites

Be sure to check out some of the reviews and contributions I’ve made to other sites!

  • Over at Filmoria I posted a review of the John Travolta/Robert DeNiro thriller Killing Season (out in theaters now). This review was fun to write (even if the film wasn’t that much fun to watch.)
  • Also at Filmoria, my first book review in a long time–a review of Matt Phelan’s graphic novel Bluffton: My Summer with Buster Keaton. If you’re a fan of The Great Stone Face (or your kid is!) check out this charming children’s novel.
  • Lastly, Man of Steel was incredibly polarizing. So much so that I argued its Pros and Cons with other Filmorians and stopped by Outside the Envelope (the DearFilm podcast) to talk to hosts Brian and Rick about poor Pa Kent, Lois Lane, and film franchises.  Note of caution, the podcast is NSFW because we’re potty mouths.

Cinema Treats From Film Blogging Friends

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Today I received two lovely packages in the mail, and they truly made my day! First, my dear friend Ryan McNeil, blogger (and podcasting extraordinaire) of The Matinee sent me a fantastic treat. Along with a lovely note, Ryan sent along a French Film postcard from the TIFF Cinematheque, the 2-Disc Limited Edition release of E.T., and The Chaplin Collection DVD release of The Great Dictator.

In a word: SQUEE. These are gorgeous releases, with juicy special features (and hello, the E.T. cover is a work of art)! 

Ryan has been a true friend and a real supporter of my work here at Reel Feminist, and I just want to say a huge THANK YOU to him for all the support and encouragement. This year has really had its trials and tribulations, and it’s tough to be a film blogger who can’t treat herself to DVD releases because she’s short on funds. It really means a lot to be sent a couple well-loved DVDS from a friend and colleague–especially one you really respect and admire. You should check out his site–he has new content EVERY DAY.  

Secondly, you’ll see in my (apologetically grainy) images, a few posters and postcards which are courtesy of the amazingly talented Alex Kittle, aka Film Forager. Alex is a supremely talented artist (and blogger, too!) who puts her love of film into her art. Hidden in there is a piece of work from her Etsy page that I recently purchased for a friend’s Christmas present (in fact, I purchased two posters from her). Alex’s work is currently on sale at her Etsy page, and I missed the sale by a couple hours, so she thoughtfully threw in one of my FAVORITE works by her–the insanely hysterical “Fuller–Go Easy on the Pepsi!” print that immortalizes Home Alone. I seriously crack up every time I look at this poster. 

Lastly, Alex also sent me two postcard prints (and they happened to be two of my favorites): ImageDr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem from The Muppets, and her Tangled movie poster. They’re lovely, and they’re hanging up on my door as soon as I get home tonight. 

I just want to say a big THANK YOU to Alex for really making my day with this–she too has been a huge supporter of Reel Feminist, and she’s just an all around solid, good person with lots of passion and drive.

Today’s surprises really reminded that after over just a year of blogging independently (and, more recently at Filmoria.co.uk), I’ve really made a solid network of friends, colleagues, and supporters in the blog world. I can’t thank my readers and fellow bloggers enough for all their kind words of encouragement, comments, and Twitter conversation. I can’t thank YOU enough, either.

Thank you, film friends, for everything!

On Child Stars and Sexism: Ownership of the Mature Female Form

ImageEarlier this week a promotional image of Alexa Vega in Robert Rodriguez’s upcoming film Machete Kills was released. The former child star is shown standing in front of a flipped car, looking dangerous with a gun in her hand, and dressed in a Western-styled bra top and chaps. It is a very provocative image, and as such it provoked a lot of reaction from the film blog world. Unfortunately, its images didn’t provoke commentary about the movie so much as statements about how Vega—the former child star known for her role in “Spy Kids”–is now a voluptuous, full-bodied woman. Now there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that a former child star is now transitioning into more adult roles (though Vega has been in smaller pictures, including the cult hit Repo! The Genetic Opera, since her appearance in Spy Kids more than 10 years ago). Nor is there any problem in acknowledging that a beautiful woman is, in fact, a beautiful woman. But there is a problem when the language used to acknowledge this shift is mired in sexist and disturbing language focused not on the movie itself but on the body of its star and a perverse gratitude for what puberty wrought on her body.

When an attractive girl is shown in a bra top the usual “she’s so hot” commentary is expected, even on film sites that are mainly news and review-based. A lot of film sites nowadays capitalize on such pictures and lists, and let’s face it—they probably get more hits because of these lists. But the language of these sorts of posts are often inherently heteronormative and sexist; probably the most disturbing sexist language is utilized when it comes to former child stars who have matured into attractive adult women. The language surrounding Vega’s picture includes remarks about how she’s “Not a kid anymore,” “is all grown up” and even “less young” which is true, but it takes on a creepy tone–particularly the “less young” remark–that seems to posit her current attractiveness in direct correlation to her previous youth and sweetness. The implications are that it’s okay to find her attractive even though she was once a kid, indeed that her current attractiveness is all the more impressive because hey, she was once just one of those “precocious little tykes” from SpyKids

One site included the following text: “It’s ok to think she’s amazingly hot, by the way. She’s grown up now (actually been married and divorced already)… Either way… good god! ….Just to make this post more legitimate, here’s the poster for Machete Kills…”  To the site’s credit, it acknowledges that this isn’t exactly a film news post, but really an excuse to post the picture of an attractive woman. At least the writer is self-aware enough to know that the post exists explicitly so we can ogle her. I guess the awareness is better than having him completely unaware that he’s specifically setting out to enjoy her body. Unfortunately, he actually gives us, the viewer, permission to ogle her as well: (“It’s ok to think she’s amazingly hot…she’s grown up now”). The implication is ‘Hey, she’s totally legal now, so it’s okay to lust for her—it’s not illegal anymore.’ It placates the viewer’s fear that they may be enjoying the beauty of a child, and gives them permission to find her sexually gratifying. The language essentially says, “Don’t worry, you’re not a pedophile—you can enjoy her looks because puberty is long gone. But gee, wasn’t puberty super good to her?” The first post even says “You’re welcome,” as if the man who wrote the post deserves your gratitude for bringing this image to your eager eyes.

 What’s equally disturbing is the bizarre conflation of Vega the woman and her fictional character, Killjoy. This conflation happens on another site where it’s noted that “She’s not a shy girl, evidently.” The statement implies that it’s okay to view Vega sexually because she’s put herself on display for us. Of course she is on display—this is a film still after all—but just because her character Killjoy is a sexy scantily-clad character does not have any bearing on how Vega is outside of the world Rodriguez created. This kind of conflation blurs the obvious boundaries between actress and character and gives us permission to view not just Killjoy the character but also Vega herself as a sexual object.

Ultimately sexist language pervades many film and pop culture websites, but the language used to describe former child stars is particularly offensive and puzzling. Often this language relishes the move of a woman from childhood to adult, as if her maturation resulted in some gift to mankind. What is it about a woman’s maturation within the public eye that lends itself to the language of objectification and sexism? Why are child stars who shift into adult roles consistently discussed in a smarmy, congratulatory way that seemingly celebrates the viewer’s ability to find the actress attractive? Perhaps there’s a sense of viewer entitlement. We the viewer have witnessed this child’s maturation via the silver screen, and as consumers and viewers of this process we somehow possess the actress–as a child of the image she has become ours to consume with our eyes. Perhaps there’s a sense that we have the right to comment on her maturity simply because we once enjoyed her as that precocious young girl. 

Podcastin’ Away Part Quatre

Aside

I’ve been lucky enough to serve as a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, Outside the Envelope, in back-to-back episodes. It started with a guest appearance in which we had a thrilling and challenging conversation about Rian Johnson’s fantastic sci-fi-infused Looper. I love this podcast because hosts Rick and Brian are super knowledgeable, gracious, and enthusiastic. It was a fruitful conversation, and they even managed to make me question my own feminist interpretation of the film. Check this podcast out here. (There are spoiler-free sections before we get into the nitty-gritty.)

While recording the Looper podcast, Rick and Brian mentioned they might be covering the a capella film Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick. Since I’m a huge fan of collegiate and professional a capella, it seemed like I was a good fit and I promised to come back as a guest. Sure enough, Rick and Brian’s readers voted that they cover Pitch Perfect on the podcast, and what resulted is one of the most hysterical, vitriolic podcasts I’ve ever recorded. I try to balance the criticisms of the film with praise, but as you’ll hear, it’s hard to defend. Check this podcast out here. (Be forewarned, there’s no spoiler-free section on this podcast.)

Podcastin’ Away Part Troix!

Hello there again folks!

I recently visited two more podcasts for some spirited conversations about everything from Colin Farrell’s surprising ability to act, to the creepiness of David Lynch, to feminism in action movies. Note of warning: these podcasts are most certainly NSFW.

On The Demented Podcast, Episode 43: I talk with hosts Nick Jobe and Steve Honeywell about two neo-noir flicks: In Bruges and Blue Velvet. I had very different reactions to these films (one I love and one I really hate), so check it out to see which is which and why I end up talking about phalluses in contemporary culture and the word “cock.”

ImageI also stopped by The Lair of the Unwanted (Episode 37) to talk about the intersection of feminism and action movies with hosts Jason Soto and Nolahn. What starts out as a lighthearted discussion about the awesomeness of Sam Jackson and his inevitable swearing turns into a serious and intense conversation about feminism and film through the lens of The Long Kiss Goodnight, starring Geena Davis. We talk about Davis’ reappropriation of the term “dick,” the spheres of work versus home life, and the conflict of motherhood and sexuality posited in the film.

As always you can find me at Filmoria.co.uk–in the coming week I’ll be reviewing many of the films premiering at the New York-based GenArt Film Festival, so stay tuned!

Podcastin’ Away Part Deux

Hello readers!

Apologies for the delay in posting; I recently began writing for a new site! If you haven’t seen Filmoria before, please do check it out. It’s a UK-based site that includes news and reviews for movies and games, as well as special features like Must See Movies and a section on Cult Classics. I’ve been writing a little bit of everything for Filmoria, but my favorite post so far is a Must See Movies look at Singin’ in the Rain.

I’ve also been making the podcasting rounds, enjoying numerous guest appearances on some fantastic podcasts. I’ve made two appearances on The Large Association of Movies Blogs (LAMB) podcast, LAMBCast, in the last few months. In the episode known as Brian Roan vs. the World my colleague and friend Brian Roan of DearFilm does a great job of debating the merits of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with a bunch of diehard fans, including yours truly. I also participated in the 6th LAMBpardy! podcast, a Jeopardy!-inspired film trivia competition. I have to admit I got my butt royally whooped, but I did my best and almost swept one category before suddenly going tabula rasa in my brain.

Perhaps my favorite guest spot ever, however, has to be my visit to The Matineecast. Host Ryan McNeil and I talked about High Fidelity and movie blogs we love. It was a great time, and a productive discussion about everything from whether or not High Fidelity is a “guys movie” to how the film holds up in comparison to the book.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone at Man, I Love Films for giving me a space to write Top 10 Lists and weekly editorials. It was a great experience, and I appreciate it very much.

Two more podcast guest spots are on their way, so stay tuned everybody!

 

Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure: Witches

It’s time for the sixth installment of Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure!  As a reminder, here’s what the series is all about: The first film I discuss is one of arguably obvious cinematic merit–the sort of thing taught in Introduction to Film courses, featured on “Top 100 Yadda Yadda” lists, or winning awards at fancy events that include speeches and extensive song-and-dance numbers.  The second film I discuss is one that doesn’t have the cinematic gravitas of, say, Citizen Kane, but that remains a personal favorite for other reasons: cult films, films from my youth, or films simply so bad they’re good.

This week’s theme: Witches!

This might seem like an odd time to discuss movies about witches, but they’re on my mind this week since I’ll be screening my Guilty Pleasure pick at a Bad Movie Night this weekend.  So what can I say about witches that isn’t said every Halloween?  On screen they’re usually presented with warts, pointy black hats, and brooms.  Back in October I wrote a Halloween post for Man, I Love Films that mentioned two of my favorite witch-centric Halloween movies: Hocus Pocus and the aptly named Witches (based on the book by Roald Dahl).  For this post, however, I’m taking a look at two other top choices, and they’re very very different from each other.

Cinema Treasure: The Wizard of Oz (1939), directed by Victor Fleming (and others, including Victor Fleming).  Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Margaret Hamilton.

I only know one full-fledged adult (you know who you are!) who has yet to see this movie the whole way through. When people talk about The Wizard of Oz, the first thing they mention is Judy Garland.  Her turn as Dorothy Gale is nothing short of iconic, and her performance of “Over the Rainbow” made it arguably her signature song (though some might argue it’s followed at a close second by “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” from Meet Me in St. Louis.)  But this is Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure: Witches!, so let’s talk about those cauldron-loving hags!

The great thing about The Wizard of Oz is that you get three witches for the price of one!  First off, you get the brief but memorable appearance of the Wicked Witch of the East, the original Ruby Slipper wearer whose death-by-house is the impetus for the plot.  Then we’ve got Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), a lovely bubblegum-pink-and-glitter confection who heralds in the death of the Wicked Witch of the East and aides Dorothy on her journey.  And lastly, there’s the Wicked Witch of the West, played with cackling perfection by Margaret Hamilton.  For me, the Wicked Witch takes the cake–her crouched body, green skin, pointy fingers, and evil laugh make her the perfect villain.  Add in those flying monkeys and she’s one scary broom-wielding witch.

Things I love: The immortal threat: “I’ll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too!”; the Wicked Witch of the West’s fantastic, water-induced exit; as minions go, flying monkeys are surprisingly effective.

Guilty Pleasure: Teen Witch (1989), directed by Dorian Walker.  Starring: Robyn Lively, Dan Gauthier, Zelda Rubinstein.

Teen Witch stars Robyn Lively as Louise, an unpopular teenage girl who discovers she’s a witch when she meets Madame Serena (Zelda Rubenstein), a local psychic.  As Louise learns to control her powers, she uses them to become more popular and get the guy of her dreams.  Interestingly, Teen Witch was originally pitched as a female version of the popular Michael J. Fox vehicle Teen Wolf.  This might explain why it–like Teen Wolf–is a  movie that is thoroughly, 100% of the 1980s; it’s got everything from teased hair and jean jackets, to leotards and locker room dance numbers.

Louise isn’t your typical green-skinned witch; she’s a pretty regular girl who just wants to be liked.  She’s got frustrating teachers, an insanely irritating and creepy younger brother, and a reliable best friend.  It’s easy to root for her because we’ve all been lonely and awkward teenagers with crushes, and she pretty much does what we’d all do if we had magical powers: she makes herself a hot chick with cool clothes, cool friends, and a hot boyfriend.  The film also features appearances by Dick Sargent (of “Bewitched” fame) and Marcia Wallace (who now provides the voice for Mrs. Krabappel on “The Simpsons.”

Things I love: the “Top That” rap battle between Louise’s best friend and 3 dudes in high-tops; the like, totally rad ’80s soundtrack; the poor man’s Tom Cruise, Dan Gauthier.

Podcastin’ Away

Hi folks!  I’ve recently made some guest appearances on podcasts hosted by fellow film bloggers.  I had a lovely time appearing on The Demented Podcast, where I discussed Repo! The Genetic Opera and All That Jazz with Nick Jobe and Steve Honeywell.  On the podcast you can hear me praise Singin’ in the Rain, diss Hayden Christiansen, and nerd out about Joss Whedon and Anthony Stewart Head.  It’s The Demented Podcast #33, aptly named “Paul Sorvino? What the F*@#!“.  If you check it out you get the added bonus of hearing me embarrass myself trying to conquer The Tower, a fantastic (and fantastically tough) game that kicked my butt.  You can find Nick at his awesome site Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob (“R2D2”); and Steve can be found at 1001Plus, where the crazy bastard blogs about his attempt to see every movie listed in the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” series.

Also, back in December I participated in a discussion of Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” for LAMBcast, the Large Association of Movie Blogs‘ podcast.  We had a very passionate and thoughtful discussion, including debates about von Trier’s motives, death, suicide, and the apocalypse.  If you’d like to have a listen, you can find it here (it’s LAMBcast #98).

Be forewarned, folks: spoilers abound in the podcasts!

 

Cinema Treasure Guilty Pleasure: Musicals (With a Twist)

It’s time for the fifth installment of Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure!  As a reminder, here’s what the series is all about: The first film I discuss is one of arguably obvious cinematic merit–the sort of thing taught in Introduction to Film courses, featured on “Top 100 Yadda Yadda” lists, or winning awards at fancy events that include speeches and extensive song-and-dance numbers.  The second film I discuss is one that doesn’t have the cinematic gravitas of, say, Citizen Kane, but that remains a personal favorite for other reasons: cult films, films from my youth, or films simply so bad they’re good.

This week’s theme: Musicals (With a Twist)!

I’ve loved movie musicals since I was a little girl.  My maternal grandmother had a VHS collection of classic dramas and musicals that I pillaged on sick days and weekend visits.  More often than not I found myself returning to my regular rotation of musicals: Mary Poppins, Gigi, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Singin’ in the Rain.  (Side note: Gigi loses some of its charm once you’re old enough to really understand what Gaston is asking of naive little Gigi).  Over the years I’ve watched all kinds of musicals, from the classic, graceful productions directed by Mark Sandrich (Top Hat, The Gay Divorcee, etc.), to the more frenetic contemporary movie musicals by Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballrom, Moulin Rouge). 

As a child I watched My Fair Lady countless times, only to realize years later that Audrey Hepburn was dubbed by Marni Nixon (Hepburn’s only contribution to the soundtrack was her performance of “Just You Wait,” the most abrasive and aggressive number in the film). Indeed, Marni Nixon is the voice behind some of my favorite musical performances, including the voice of Maria in West Side Story and Anna in The King and I.  As you might suspect, this month’s Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure examines two movie musicals that feature dubbing.

Cinema Treasure: Singin’ in the Rain (1952), directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.  Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.

Long before The Artist examined the trauma of the silent-to-talkie transition, Singin’ in the Rain did–and with beautiful songs, complicated dance numbers, and a witty script.  Gene Kelly’s turn as Don Lockwood is probably his most well-known and, indeed, iconic performance.  This energetic, joyful production also features strong performances from the supporting cast, including the charming Debbie Reynolds (as Don’s love interest, Kathy Selden), and Donald O’Connor (as Don’s hysterical best friend, Cosmo Brown).  Jean Hagen is squeaky perfection as Lina Lamont, Don’s costar with a voice that won’t survive the talkie revolution. As Lamont schemes to save her career, Selden finds herself serving as a vocal stand-in for the greedy starlet.

The great irony of Singin’ in the Rain is that it actually uses dubbing quite a bit!  The plot of the film centers around Reynolds/Selden dubbing Hagen/Lamont’s speaking and singing, but in reality Hagen had a lovely speaking voice.  When it appears that Reynolds is dubbing Hagen’s speaking voice, it’s actually Hagen dubbing Reynolds dubbing Hagen!  Meanwhile Reynolds was dubbed by Betty Noyes for the song “Would You?”  Reynolds’ biography also indicates that Noyes contributed the vocals to “You Are My Lucky Star,” as well.  Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

Things I love: Gene Kelly’s effortless charm in every scene; Donald O’Connor’s nonstop, full-throttle dance number “Make ‘Em Laugh”; the endlessly quotable script.

Guilty Pleasure:  Cry-Baby (1990), directed by John Waters.  Starring: Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Amy Locane.

Like all of John Waters’ works, Cry-Baby is a fantastically campy movie that revels in debauchery and glorifies society’s misfits.  Johnny Depp plays Cry-Baby Walker, the leader of a Greaser gang, who falls for a square named Allison (Amy Locane). Cry-Baby woos Allison with song and dance, and she must choose to either be good (a Square) or bad (a Greaser).  The film takes all the tropes of 1950s juvenile delinquent films and pushes them to their acme, filling the frame with car chases, necking teenagers, and rockabilly music.  Cry-Baby also boasts an amazing cast of real-life misfits, from rocker Iggy Pop to adult film star Traci Lords (and even an appearance by Patty Hearst).

Fans of Depp’s turn as the Demon Barber in Sweeney Todd might be surprised to learn that his vocals were dubbed for Cry-Baby.  Though John Waters thought Depp had a nice voice, he wanted consistency throughout the film (and, presumably, through the demanding number of original songs), so the vocals were dubbed by rockabilly singer James Intveld.  Amy Locane’s vocals were also dubbed, so both she and Depp received lip-synch training. Depp agreed to dance in the film, though viewers will notice that most dance sequences cut away from him or move to medium shots that focus on his upper body (this is particularly noticeable in the “Doin’ Time for Being Young” number).

Things I love: The sexy, ridiculous amazingness that is the “Please, Mr. Jailer” sequence; Johnny Depp’s wardrobe of white shirts and leather jackets; the mix of classic ’50s songs like “Mister Sandman” and original songs like “King Cry Baby.”

Cinema Treasure Guilty Pleasure: Colin Firth

Happy New Year everybody!  It’s time for the fourth installment of Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure! As a reminder, here’s what the series is all about: The first film I discuss is one of arguably obvious cinematic merit–the sort of thing taught in Introduction to Film courses, featured on “Top 100 Yadda Yadda” lists, or winning awards at fancy events that include speeches and extensive song-and-dance numbers.  The second film I discuss is one that doesn’t have the cinematic gravitas of, say, Citizen Kane, but that remains a personal favorite for other reasons: cult films, films from my youth, or films simply so bad they’re good.

This week’s theme: Colin Firth.

At first glance Colin Firth might seem like an odd choice for the Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure series.  After all, Firth is perhaps best known for his dramatic performances in the dramas A Single Man and The King’s Speech (he received an Oscar nomination for the first and a win for the latter).  And yet Firth’s filmography is full of absolutely fantastic Guilty Pleasure fodder because he does not shy away from roles in lighter fare, including romantic comedies and movie musicals.  Firth is just as comfortable spouting the witty repartee of Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest) as he is hamming it up while singing ABBA on screen (Mamma Mia). For this segment of Cinema Treasure/Guilty Pleasure I’ll be discussing two of my favorite Firth performances.

Cinema Treasure: “Pride and Prejudice” (1995), directed by Simon Langton. Starring: Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle.

 

Full disclosure: I’m bending the rules a bit here, since Pride and Prejudice originally aired as a miniseries on the BBC.  Still, it’s probably Firth’s most well-known and beloved performance.  This is perhaps the most faithful adaptation of an Austen work to date–so faithful, in fact, that it runs a whopping 5 hours!  Adaptations of the novel are a dime a dozen, but Firth’s performance is so spot-on that I (and many of my Austenite friends) consider him the quintessential ‘Mr. Darcy.’  In fact, when Helen Fielding wrote a novelization of “Pride and Prejudice” called “Bridget Jones’s Diary”, she based her character of Mark Darcy on Firth’s performance.  In a strange twist of fate, “Bridget Jones’s Diary” was later adapted to film, and Firth was cast as Mark Darcy.

Things I love: Firth’s subtle development from haughty snob to tortured lover; the overabundance of cravat’s and sideburns on attractive men; David Bamber’s fantastically greasy portrayal of Mr. Collins; the unforgettable ‘dip in the lake’ scene.

Guilty Pleasure:  What a Girl Wants (2003), directed by Dennie Gordon.  Starring: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Oliver James.

Colin Firth in an Amanda Bynes romantic comedy? Now that’s a guilty pleasure.  Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, a young American girl who travels to England in search of her father, a British politician (played by Firth) who does not know she exists.  What follows is a silly adventure replete with stuffy-British-people jokes, an evil step-sister, and the mandatory hunky musician love interest.  One of my college friend’s introduced me to this film, and it has since become my go-to movie on a rainy day.  What a Girl Wants may be chock full of cliches, but it’s a lot of fun and features a surprisingly stellar supporting cast.  The set-up allows Firth to play both the stalwart politician and the heartwarming father figure, but he’s most fun to watch when he’s cheesing it up.  The movie’s worth seeing just to watch Firth and the other Brits make fun of British life and behavior.  Side note: There are a surprising number of Austen connections in the film, as well.  Whether an intentional homage or not, Firth plays ‘Henry Dashwood’–the name of a character in Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility”.  Furthermore, Anna Chancellor, who plays Firth’s fiance in What a Girl Wants also featured as Miss Bingley in Firth’s Pride and Prejudice.

Things I love: The scene where Firth dances in front of a mirror wearing leather pants; Eileen Atkins’ turn as the spunky Lady Jocelyn; the role of the Hot Musician Boyfriend being filled by an actor who actually sings his own vocals (Oliver James), including a surprisingly funky cover of “Get Up Offa That Thing.”