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Juliette’s Trousers: Leggings Are Not Trousers
This film is a graduation project mostly shot on the AUC campus. Now as any student who’s tried to make a film knows, filmmaking is incredibly hard work; it can be very costly, even if you’re working with a micro budget, and usually it consists of using friends for as much free labour as possible. It’s an immensely difficult task and requires major guts and perseverance, but having said that, Juliette’s Trousers isn’t a very good film. And while some of its faults can be blamed on a small budget, the film’s biggest fault is in the script and plot; two things that could have held it together should all else fail.
The film revolves around the idea that leggings are not trousers and should not be treated as such. Arguing this is Tarek El Ibiary, while taking the stand for the opposing side is his girlfriend Mona Lasheen. He disapproves that she wears leggings with short tops; she maintains that her fashion choices are none of his business. This is the one issue that poses a problem for them in their otherwise blissful relationship and the film is basically a chronicle of how Mona’s leggings brought them together then tore them apart.
Funnily enough for a film with a central argument, it fails to make a convincing case for either side. The characters speak in clichés and platitudes never delving beyond the surface. Their arguments can be summed up to: leggings overly reveal a girl’s body, and the counter argument that girls are free to wear whatever they want. What is absolutely astounding is that not once does Mona tell Tarek that perverts will stare at a woman no matter what she’s wearing, and that the onus is on the harasser to stop and not on the woman to alter her lifestyle. There was clearly a concerted effort to avoid sexist tropes but due to the film’s shallowness, they fall into many of them anyway. For example, the justification that he is doing this because he cares and isn’t a control freak is trotted out a few times, though this makes it no better. The film doesn’t seem to realize that sexism is sexism no matter how sugar coated or how well-intended that person is.
Another problem that goes hand in hand with the aforementioned one is that the characters are wildly inconsistent with Tarek being the number one example of that. He fluctuates all over the place, starting out as a guy who’s idea of a good time is watching women as they walk by - in fact that’s how he first met Mona - only to become possessive when his friends insinuate that her leggings are a sign of her easiness. From then on, he goes back and forth between being mad at her for wearing them and supporting her right to wear whatever she wants. The acting doesn’t help much either; the cast is made up of amateurs and therefore the dialogue often sounds forced.
As for the technical side of things, the film is for the most part, poorly shot, lit and edited; some ‘funky’ editing tricks are liberally used, giving it an amateur feel - but there are some commendable points nonetheless. It was a pleasant surprise to see that even though the film revolves around leggings, not once did the camera focus on a woman’s curves, preferring instead to use multiple below the knee shots and guys’ reactions to convey the idea. The filmmakers chose the anti objectification route and kudos to them for that; this choice seemed to send a stronger message than all of the film’s dialogue. It says that women shouldn’t be ogled at no matter what they’re wearing and that is ultimately a very decent message to send.
Steven Spielberg’s latest cinematic offering has ome in the form of a surprisingly tensionless and tame courtroom-drama- come-spy-thriller, Bridge of Spies. Written by newcomer Matt Charman and polished by the always-reliable Coen Brothers, the story, although still effective in terms of mood and acting, is not Spielberg’s best thanks to the lack of suspense and overall excitement.
Set in the late 1950s, Bridge of Spies takes place during the height of the Cold War and it begins telling its story with the arrest of a suspected Russian spy named, Rudolf Abel (Rylance) who is placed on public trial. In order to make sure that the US justice system appears to be fair, Abel is appointed defence in the form of a hand-picked insurance-lawyer, James Donovan (Hanks), who hasn’t quite got to grips with what he’s gotten himself into.
While it’s becoming very clear that everyone - including the judge himself - would like to see Abel hang for his crime, Donovan’s idealistic nature compels him to push even harder to ensure that his client receives fair treatment even if it means that his very own reputation as a lawyer could be placed at risk. After a lengthy battle, he manages to keep his client away from the death row, just in time when an U.S military pilot, Frances Gary Powers (Stowell) is shot down over the Russian territory in his U-2 spy plane and placed in Russian custody.
It’s hard not to get excited about a film project which finds one of the most respected and successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Mr. Steven Spielberg, rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Coen Brothers - see No Country for Old Men, Fargo. However, even though the film is still relatively engaging, there is very little meat on its narrow and bony structure to stand alongside either Spielberg’s or the Coens’ past cinematic triumphs.
Luckily, Tom Hanks is there to pick up the pieces and the Oscar-winning actor is once again as reliable as ever, while his Russian client, played by talented British stage actor, Mark Rylance, is quietly brilliant and perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the entire film.
In the end, the two filmic personalities seem to produce a clash of styles; the blend of Spielberg’s old school and grand approach to storytelling and the Coen Brothers’ downplayed quirkiness, results in a rather peculiar mix which doesn’t always sit right. In addition, the importance - and the horrors - sitting behind its Cold War backdrop is illustrated in a rather lazy and stage-like manner, contrasting Spielberg’s typically spot-on detail.
The fourth and final instalment in The Hunger Games film series is upon us and director Francis Lawrence has injected the closing chapter of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian adventure with a bit more heart and oomph than from what was witnessed in the first and rather dreary half of this two-part tale. However, although Mockingjay Part 2 is definitely a better and more exciting offering, it’s still not completely free of fault.
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) trying to recover after almost being choked to death by her former ‘lover’ and ally, Peeta (Hutcherson), who by the looks of things, seems to have been brainwashed and poisoned with thoughts of killing Katniss. Driven by the anger and her pure hatred for President Snow (Sutherland), Katniss soon escapes District 13 to join an assault on The Capitol under rebel leader, President Coin (Moore), only to discover that there is one last version of the Hunger Games still to play.
One thing’s for sure; Part 2 is a definite improvement over Part 1, which spent most of its time shifting about and setting things up for the big payoff. It’s a problem that we’ve seen before in the waves of adult-fiction novel adaptations – the first half spends so much energy in setting up the second that it fails to convince a stand-alone film. Although the pace picks up, there’s no sense of grandness to what is meant to be a huge finale and, actually, some may even feel underwhelmed by how the plot plays out.
On the plus side, the action is engaging and some of the battle scenes are staged with great attention to detail. In addition, Lawrence is, as always, her fantastic self and she’s once again the anchor on what has been a shaky ship.
As a story which has always attempted to frame the horrors of war through the eyes of a fiercely brave young heroine, so much more could have been done – much like the whole series, there’s something engaging about the finale, but it all feels like a chance missed.