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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.
Saddled with an overworked air of mystery that turns into vagueness and a little too much of a sullen atmosphere for its own good, Michael Petroni’s Backtrack finds one seemingly committed and haunted-looking Adrien Brody a little lost for guidance in how to bring about this effectively moody, but not at all frightening ghost-fest fiasco to light.
Set and shot in Australia, Backtrack tells the story of a troubled psychotherapist, Peter Bower (Brody sporting a relatively decent Aussie accent), who has recently moved to a new town for a fresh start with wife, Carol (Baird), after the loss of their young daughter Elvie (O’Farrell) to an incident caused by his own negligence. Unable to come to terms with her death and still very much haunted by crippling flashbacks, it takes some time for Peter to realise that a large portion of his most recent clientele – who all seem to be believe it’s 1987 - are actually ghosts, including one spooky-looking young girl named Elizabeth Valentine.
Unsure whether what he is seeing is real or if he’s having some sort of a mental breakdown, Peter decides to seek advice from friend and fellow therapist, Duncan Stewart (Neill wasted in his role), who thinks that there is a connection between his own personal tragedy and his latest array of patients, especially young Elizabeth, forcing him to go back to his hometown and investigate the repeated reference to 1987.
While the presence of the committed and reliable Oscar-winner, Adrien Brody, adds a note of credibility to proceedings, there is still a deep lack of complexity and originality in Michael Petroni’s derivative script which, unlike Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense which clearly is the main source of ‘inspiration’ here, seems to favour the style-over-substance approach. Predictability and familiarity are also plaguing factors and the fact that the audience can probably work out where the story is headed long before its leading man, doesn’t really leave Backtrack with enough storytelling power to pull its self out of the mess.
In the end, it’s relatively safe to say that Petroni’s second feature film – see 2003’s Till Human Voices Wake Us - leaves a lot to be desired. There is a decent idea in there somewhere and the air of intensity is somewhat effective, but what might have sounded good on paper doesn’t really necessarily translate on the screen. It's as if the film tries so hard to set the mood, that it forgets that in needs the occasional pop.
Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don’t always land where they’re supposed to.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don’t seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his “I Do’s” with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife.
Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted’s civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline ‘Legalise Ted’.
Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane’s distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human.
The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on – seems to shine more in his secondary role.
Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar. Nevertheless, it’s a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film.