Author: Katherine B. Shelor

The Elusive Strong Female Character

So. The Strong Female Character. She’s becoming more common… but is she doing enough? As I explored in my Bechdel test article, and as has been pointed out by numerous others, what seems to be lacking in female characters in film is not only their presence, but more importantly their depth. Even when a movie features a Strong Female Character (SFC), this woman frequently succumbs to the old victim/object/prize role, and fails to carry the entire movie alone. She might kick ass for the first half of a movie, but then get captured by a villain and require rescuing...

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Three Annoying Flaws of the Bechdel Test

It’s likely that you’re familiar with the Bechdel test. As a measure of gender bias, this simple test based on a comic strip by Alison Bechdel is in vogue lately (no, literally – in Vogue). In its simplest form, the test only asks whether a movie includes two women talking about something other than a man. If it does, the film passes the test. Hold up the most praised award-winning films from the past decade to this test, and you’ll find very few that pass. Despite the fact that I identify as a feminist, this fails to make me...

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Girl, I Didn’t Know You Could Get Down Like That

5 Excellent Adaptations of 19th and 20th Century British Literature Featuring Strong Female Leads To establish my status as our resident expert of late 19th and early 20th century British and Russian literature featuring strong female leads, I feel compelled to provide  a list of my favorite literary adaptations of late 19th /a early 20th century feminist(ish) novels. Some might not consider these novels to be feminist, of course, but if considered  against the context in which the novels were written (the source materials were are all written by women, by the by) and the strength and intelligence of...

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The Sound of Music (1965)

Overview/Rating/Length: A singing nun is sent to work as a governess for Captain von Trapp and his seven children, and melts his icy military heart with her music, gumption, and earnest concern for the children’s well-being. Rated: G; Robert Wise Productions/Twentieth Century Fox; 174 minutes. How do you Review a Classic Like The Sound of Music?: I remember the first time I saw The Sound of Music. I was three or four, and it was on TV at our hotel. My parents made me turn it off and go to bed before it was over, but not before I’d...

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The Hegemony of the Short Film Is No More

My initial thesis was going to be something like, “Short film used to be intended for mass consumption, but over time it became the domain of film school students and the avant garde; a place to prove oneself as a filmmaker.” After doing some research and sampling short films from the past century, however, I realized that my assumption – that earlier short film was not experimental or in any way pushing boundaries as it does today – was totally wrong. Short film as a vehicle for innovation hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the audience, and more...

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Jesus Camp (2006)

Overview/Rating/Length: A documentary of an evangelical christian summer camp in North Dakota, run by passionate children’s minister Becky Fischer. Rated: PG-13; Magnolia Pictures; 85 minutes. Honestly: It’s easy to watch Jesus Camp expecting to feel horrified while enjoying your own sense of superiority, comfortable in the fact that you’re smart enough to believe in evolution and well read enough to feel that the Bible says too many contradictory things to be taken literally. I recommend, however, approaching this film as its creators did: as objectively as possible, given the strength of your current beliefs. The documentary focuses on one...

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The Nightmare Before Christmas

Overview: In this stop motion film, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, decides to be Santa Claus, and in doing so rediscovers his passion for Halloween–the holiday that made him who he is. Touchstone Pictures; 1993; Rated PG; 76 Minutes. Sculptural Significance: In the current age of flawless computer animation, it is refreshing to look back at a film that is a masterpiece of stop motion. The living sculpture hints at the hours of work behind it in a way a contemporary computer-animated film does not; the slight movement of the character Sally’s rag dress from one...

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Dr. Zhivago

Overview: In this beautiful adaptation of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, set during the Russian revolution, a doctor/poet is in love with two women at once while longing for the Russia envisioned – but never achieved – by the revolutionaries. 1965; Rated PG-13; MGM; 197 Minutes. Romantically: It’s rare that a film captures the intricacy of the novel on which it is based while preserving the immersive cohesion of the story. Doctor Zhivago succeeds in this. While much of the original (massive) novel is left out, the movie incorporates every important detail necessary to provide insight into its complex and...

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Beauty and The Beast (1991)

Overview: A charming Disney classic about the triumph of inner beauty and love over prejudice. Viewers of every age will identify with the lovely and intellectual Belle, who would much rather read or go adventuring than settle down and marry the local rake Gaston, and will catch themselves humming “Be Our Guest” for weeks after they’ve finished watching the movie (for the third time). 1991; Rated: G; Walt Disney Pictures; 84 minutes. The Beauty: This is simply a fantastic musical, with great songs and exceptionally clever lyrics (any lyricist that incorporates “expectorating” into a solo line has my fervent...

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Overview: A young princess, Snow White, is driven from her home by fear of her jealous stepmother, who envies her youth and beauty.  Walt Disney Productions; 83 minutes. The Fair: This is one of those Disney movies in which the story is secondary to the beauty of the hand-drawn backgrounds and the nuanced animation. Little ones won’t know it, but they’re watching a work of art. That doesn’t mean the plot is uninteresting, however. It is simple and linear, with plenty of touches meant just for children. The dwarfs are silly and fun, and provide a bit of a...

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