We meet again, dear readers!
A few updates: the media cleanse I’m supposed to be on has been going less-than-stellar. I’ve somehow managed to plow through two seasons of Vanderpump Rules, and I’m convinced this show is modern-day Shakespeare. I’m surprised no one has staged a version of Much Ado that takes place in a WeHo Restaurant and Cocktail bar.
Actually, that’s brilliant. Nobody steal that. That’ll be the T in my EGOT.
Oh boy am I excited to tell you about this week’s HIGHBROW. It was my favorite film of last year (yes, even more than Green Book, the best film of 2018).
The film is Madeline’s, Madeline, directed by Josephine Decker, and starring Miranda July and my new obsession Helena Howard.
The film follows Madeline, the youngest member of an experimental theater group, and the power dynamics in her relationship with two women: her theater director and her mother. Both women intrude in Madeline’s life, sometimes with her best interest in mind, other times with their own. The film builds to one of the most incredible, fucked up, and powerful scenes with a performance by Helena Howard that I can’t stop thinking about.
I left the theater with that satisfying, dazed feeling you get after watching a perfect movie. I truly envy those of you who haven’t seen it yet because you get to have that.
Practical Magic, the witch-centric romcom from 1998, was a MASSIVE staple of my childhood. So when I saw that it’s now available on Hulu, I flipped tf out.
This was one of those movies that I’d rent over and over and over again from my local video rental shop. I was, at the time, a hardcore Sandra Bullock fan. Miss Congeniality was in heavy rotation. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was a big one. I think I even successfully snuck 28 Days, a film about substance abuse treatment, past my mom. Keep in mind, I was in elementary school. I don’t think the video rental dude really understood what was age-appropriate for me. He recommended that I watch Being John Malkovich when I was 8-years-old. You know, the movie where Cameron Diaz inhabits the brain of John Malkovich so that she can fuck Catherine Keener?
EH-NEE-WAZE… Practical Magic is filled with stuff that I was very drawn to as a young girl: love spells, chocolate cake for breakfast, women with long hair, Stockard Channing. The film stars Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as sisters. Sandra Bullock is the brunette, serious, conservative one, and Nicole Kidman is the red-headed, adventurous, hyper-sexual one. That might not seem particularly notable to you, but making a non-blonde the “sexy one” was actually incredibly radical for 1998.
Practical Magic was ahead of its time in more ways than just hair color representation. It is pro-woman a very real, very exciting way. The film opens on a pregnant woman, with a noose around her neck, about to be hanged for being a witch/allegedly sleeping with everyone’s husbands (slay, qwayne!). She’s able to save herself because she is, in fact, a witch. Everyone freaks out and banishes her to some uninhabited island in New England. She’s like, fine, idgaf, my lover is going to come live with me, build me a house, and raise our baby. So she waits and waits on her shitty little rocky island. And the guy never comes. So this gorgeous witch puts forth a curse: any man that falls in love with any of her descendants will die. And these are the conditions established in the first five minutes of the film.
The film touches on love, lust, grief, partner abuse, depression, friendship, sisterhood. The women make slut-praising jokes. They dance nude in all-female spaces. They drink full-calorie frozen margaritas. It all culminates in an exorcism where Nicole Kidman, possessed by the ghost of her ex-boyfriend, writhes on the floor inside a circle of women shouting “Di te perdant te maledico,” which either means “The gods will destroy you,” or “The gods damn you, you evil-doing man.” If someone puts that on a dayglow cropped tank, I’m definitely wearing it to the next Women’s March.
Unfortunately, Practical Magic received mixed, generally negative reviews when it came out. I’d like to take this time to respond directly to Roger Ebert’s whack-ass review (he gave it 2-stars):
“‘Practical Magic’ is too scary for children and too childish for adults. Who was it made for?”
“The movie doesn't seem sure what tone to adopt, veering uncertainly from horror to laughs to romance.”
This sounds like every movie on the AFI 100 list. Forrest Gump is ranked #76 and I wouldn’t exactly call it a feat in even-keeled, emotionally subtle storytelling.
“A movie lacks confidence when it uses music to tell us how to feel [...] Example, early in the film: An impending kiss is accompanied by ‘This Kiss,’ by Faith Hill.”
Literally, what is your point????????????????????
All I hear is “women have emotional range and an appreciation for pop music, and for that they should be punished.” Mr. Ebert (RIP), you’re not a girl’s girl!
God, I could really keep going but I’ll end this with one last thing: in addition to Sandra, Nicole and Stockard, the film also stars Dianne Wiest, Margo Martindale, and a pre-teen Evan Rachel Wood. I felt like you should know that. Oh and also every single person in the movie is White. Chalk it up to the 90s, I suppose ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Thank you so much for reading this. I’m seriously so thankful for each and every one of you. Especially if I don’t know you IRL. Just know, you mean so much more to me than my friends and family.
See you next week, loves.
*Again, I say “bitch” from a place of love and respect! I am myself a proud bitch!