Reflective of Our Times?

I watched the first three Twilight movies in the theater last night. Totally awesome! What I found most interesting about the experience was how different the audience’s reaction to the first two movies was last night, in comparison to their reaction when those movies first came out.

They laughed at the first two movies in a few places, even while breaking into applause for some of their favorite moments.

image Edward watching Bella sleep in Twilight was met with snorts. When Twilight first came out, sure, there were plenty who were weirded out by that, but especially in the theater, this was accepted with solemn intensity instead of laughter.

Twilight was first published in 2005, thus written and read when Bush was in his big-brother mode. In fact, the end of 2005 was when we first started discussing his phone-tapping policy. In 2005, the United States was still willing to trade freedom for protection. Even in 2008, when the movie Twilight was released, there was no laughter in the audience for this plot point.

I took the laughter as hope that this terrifying trend is coming to a close.

image Then there’s the sex thing. The movie Eclipse was self-aware of how archaic Edward’s feelings on sex, virginity and marriage. It gave the audience several moments to laugh at this situation. The first two movies regarded the sex thing with solemnity, although the audience did snort or laugh at these moments last night.

In the past few years, there has been a sweeping, judgmental, and intolerant movement when it comes to sex. The audience’s reaction to the sex thing was heartening. I’m taking both the self-awareness of the movie and the audience’s laughter as hope that this judgmental and intolerant trend is phasing out.

image And finally, in the first three books, Bella is courageous and she wants desperately to fight for herself, but she is human and not a match for vampires. (Though she does fight, in her own way, but I don’t want to go into that debate.) For the most part, Edward and Jacob protect her.

When the Twilight trilogy was written, we were still reeling from 9/11. Even when it was first published, the average U.S. citizen was passively living their lives while others protected them from terrorism, which they were powerless to actively fight. While this is still going on today, I see less fear. The 2004 election was mostly won because Bush promised to protect us and played on our fear of terrorism. I don’t see that same tactic working as well today. Eclipse does a great job of making Bella more proactive and showing how she does fight, even when she doesn’t.

I enjoyed the trilogy immensely, and still love the storylines. As I sat there, though, I wondered if Twilight would have had the same popular resonance it did if the first book had been released in 2010 instead of 2005.

Although sitting in a packed movie theater isn’t my favorite way to watch a movie, it was fascinating to observe the audience. Eclipse did a great job of spanning both times and cultures, and the audience always laughed with the movie and never at the movie. The first two movies showed signs of… aging.

What do you think? Have you watched the first two lately? Are you going to the third? Do you think that if Twilight were released today, that it would have the same resonance it did in 2005?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Movies | Tags: , , ,

The Joys of Realism

image I’m not a big fan of stories that put me in a bad mood. Call me a genre snob or a happy-ending snob, if you like, but seriously: real life offers me plenty of realism and unhappy endings. Does fiction think it’s going to teach me anything new in this department?

Okay, it’s true. There have been a few unhappy endings that I liked. Little Bee, by Chris Cleave, is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Loved it. And Swoon, by Nina Mulkin.

But let’s talk best-picture-hopeful Crazy Heart.

It’s true that the setup was less realism and more fiction: a beautiful young lady wanted to be kissed by a drunken, slobbering, greasy old man covered in sweat, with traces of vomit still on his shirt.

Ewww. It was just gross to watch. I wanted to shove him in a shower, and I wasn’t even convinced that would help. (The picture below makes him look a lot cleaner than he did in the film. Trust me. He was repulsive. I kept hoping he’d wash his hair at some point in the film.)

But she instantly falls in love with him. After that, the movie is predictable. He gets drunker. And drunker. And then drunker.

For two freakin’ hours he gets drunker.

Then, as we all knew he would, he loses her kid. Finally! She dumps him. He goes to rehab. He gets better. She doesn’t want him back. He rides off into the sunset alone.


Oh, yeah. He gets a good check for one of his songs. He graduates from a dilapidated old truck. Are we supposed to think money is a happy ending? Um, no. Not when you’re all alone and no one loves you in the whole world.

There was one bit of realism I liked: his adult son, who Bad didn’t talk to after he was four years old, is not interested in getting to know his father.

That is realistic and refreshing, since I’ve never seen that in fiction without the obligatory make-up and happy-ever-after in the father-son relationship. Um, no.

Yeah, great acting.

Joy, joy, joy.

I give it two thumbs down. I was in a perfectly happy mood going in, and by the one hour point I was looking at my watch every two minutes. By the time we left, I actually cried because it was such a depressing movie. And not a good sort of Greek-tragedy-cathartic cry, but an I’m-depressed-and-I-want-to-talk-to-my-best-friend cry.

So what movies have you seen lately? How’d you like them? And how do you feel about realism? And unhappy endings?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Movies | Tags: ,

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