Posts Tagged ‘Reservoir Dogs’


The Bechdel Test makes a great point, only it’s not the point that Sweden seems to think it’s making.

The test asks a three-pronged question about each movie we watch: Does it have at least two women in it, and do those women talk to each other, and do they talk about something besides a man?

Now once you start applying this test to the movies you watch, you may see a disturbing pattern: An overwhelming, out-of-whack majority of movies would have to answer at least one of those three questions with a “no.”

And yes yes YES, we should try to correct this imbalance. YES I’d love to see more ladies in the movies. However, it’s important to remember that The Bechdel Test is most useful when applied to cinema as a whole. It illuminates a widespread problem, not necessarily a problem that individual films should be judged on, utterly out-of-context. A film can “fail” the Bechdel Test and not be sexist, just as a film that “passes” the test can still be horrendously sexist. Therefore, it’s kind of unfair, not to mention pointless, to grade one film on an A to F scale based on how it fares on the test– which is exactly what a number of Swedish movie theaters have begun doing.

Look, some movies could probably stand to change a few male characters into female characters, in the interest of gender equality. But for other movies, like say Reservoir Dogs, adding female characters wouldn’t feel right for the story. Reservoir Dogs should be allowed to be a diamond-heisting sausage fest without getting grief for it.

Similarly, Kill Bill Vol. 1 should be allowed to get a low grade on a reverse Bechdel Test. It’s The Bride’s story, so if she’s the topic of conversation whenever two male characters are talking to each other, it makes sense. (Volume 2 only passes the reverse Bechdel Test because of a brief non-Bride-related dialogue between Budd and his boss, and while it’s a fine scene, it’s quite superfluous.)

That’s because most movies are not Robert Altman-esque epics with sprawling casts and multiple story threads– they focus on one journey of one hero. Therefore, all the scenes of your average movie, including any dialogues between supporting characters, will tend to focus on that hero and his/her journey. If the hero is male– which, in an ideal world, would describe approximately 50% of all movies– then not only will that movie likely fail the Bechdel Test, it will have a good reason to.

If Swedish cinemas want to assign grades based on the Bechdel Test, they’d be much better off grading film studios for not producing nearly enough movies with female heroes, and maybe grade audiences for not paying to watch more female-friendly movies; after all, studios have a knack for following the money.

In the meantime, I hereby bestow upon these Swedish cinemas a grade of C :  Their hearts are in the right place, but their fingers are pointing in the wrong directions.

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“…Tarantino is [a] film-maker who has nothing to say,” says Dangerous Minds’ Niall O’Conghaile. “Nothing to say except for having seen more movies than you.” Now maybe that’s not quite dangerous thinking, but it sure is lazy thinking, and O’Conghaile’s not alone.  Lots of people seem to have half-watched Tarantino’s movies and expressed similar idle criticisms.

Yes, much of what Tarantino “has to say” involves movies, but that’s not nothing.  Movies, like myths, affect us and reflect us.  If words are loaded pistols (as Sartre quoted Brice Parain), couldn’t cinema be a burning theater packed with explosives (as Tarantino said in Inglourious Basterds)?

Couldn’t a “slasher” movie villain wield a car instead of a knife or chainsaw?  Couldn’t a “heist” movie skip right past the heist?  Couldn’t the person who seems to be the main character die halfway through, like in Psycho– but then be resurrected for a flashback that lasts the entire third act?

All well and good, you may be thinking, but those are all still questions that dwell deep inside movie critic territory.  What could Tarantino possibly “say” about more profound matters, the human condition and such, like Bergman did?  And aren’t all those so-called  “statements” actually questions?  Well to answer that last part first, I find it a lot more interesting when storytellers “say” things by asking questions rather than just “saying” them.  As for the first part, here’s some other questions you may find more “profound”:

If history is written by the winners, couldn’t we use cinema to write an alternate history where the losers can at least get a well-crafted catharsis?  And if we did do that, isn’t it possible that such a catharsis might feel a little icky, no matter how justified said catharsis is?  Would the ickiness be worth it?  Might we be better off living in a world where we can achieve catharses with the help of fake movie violence, even if it means a select few maniacs might use that violence to inspire real violence (which those maniacs probably would’ve committed anyway)?  Because, if we didn’t exorcise our bloodlust at the movies (or on TV, or in video games), might that bloodlust find numerous other, more terrible means of escape?  Sure, Goebbels may have fueled Nazi hatred with movies, but didn’t that whole mess start with Hitler’s book? What violent movies did American slave owners watch to feed their vileness?  Oh, they didn’t watch movies back then?  Well, if desperate times call for desperate measures, and if stronger illnesses call for stronger medicines, don’t more violent times call for more violent cinema?

(Full disclosure: Shockingly, I haven’t seen Django Unchained yet.  But isn’t that the cool thing to do these days, blindly commenting on Django?  Regardless, I’m pretty sure this’ll all hold up after I do finally see it.)

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