Screens

Here’s looking at you, on-screen representation and easter eggs

In this installment of What we're watching we cover Bogart, Legion, and Grace and Frankie.

Andrew: While I love “spectacle” movies, there is always a time for movies that study the human condition. And the human condition can be a damned dark place. Double-dealers. Hit men. Femme fatales. Con men. Thievery. Blackmail. Obsession. Sex. Murder. Desperation. Mayhem. Duplicities. Greed. Cynicism. Anti-heroes. Which brings me to Humphrey Bogart and noir.

Bogart’s got staying power. He’s listed #1 as AFI’s “Greatest American Film Icons” and is in four of AFI’s “Top 100 Movies.” And Casablanca is still listed as the number one movie love story of all time. Take THAT Titanic!

But if you are talking noir and Bogart, at the top of the list are The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Both are on various “Best of” lists, and for good reason. However, there is one movie overlooked: In a Lonely Place. In my opinion it’s possibly Bogart’s best performance, when he wasn’t working with Bacall, that is. It’s a great thrill ride, with a super twist ending. I cannot recommend it more highly. Heck, they made it part of the Criterion Collection. (Careful – Spoilers!) So Bogie, wherever you are, “Here’s looking at you kid.”

Adam: I am posting on Legion again. Why? – because it is DAMN GOOD! If you are a Marvel person at all, the working of the easter eggs into the script, however subtly, is brilliant. If you love the fact that Sydney Barrett is accompanied by Pink Floyd during parts of the last episodes of the season, then you and me are instant friends. The visuals, the soundscapes, the way the show is shot and developed all leads to something that the fan or the new watcher will appreciate, work through, and appreciate in how it moves the story along.

The last two episodes of the 8-episode season (which makes me sad) delivers on each nod and nuance that was offered throughout the run. Not only that, but the narrative arc becomes even more complex and, as with the whole of the series (and really the book run as well), we start to truly question this whole mutant thing … what IS a mutant, really? In the MCU space, why are they hunted? What are the implications when you are no longer the top of the chain? Particularly the exchange between the two sides during Chapter 8 … and the last lines delivered by those characters … are telling … and seem to point towards the complications of the human condition.

So. Damn. Good.

Art: Representation is a complicated topic for academics. For instance, we can put people of color, or women, or <insert marginalized group here> on screen, but is really enough if we fail to give them any complexity or depth? Representation is both who we see on our screens and how they are depicted. For this reason, I would like to talk about the vibrant stories of Grace and Frankie.

As Alix can attest, I believe I end every episode of this program by stating that “you could put Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in just about anything and I would watch it.”

(Alix: Yes, yes he does.)

So, I was predisposed to love Grace and Frankie. However, watching this program really cemented for me the wise words of Dr. Tony Adams (https://tonyeadams.com/) about queer texts:

“Queer texts can subvert, spoil, and promote transgressive ways to talk about culturally prevalent, false and insidious beliefs, practices, and expectations, especially those tied to same-sex attraction, heterosexuality, sexual desire, reproduction, kinship, and family. Queer texts can acknowledge, reclaim, and celebrate affects commonly perceived to be peculiar, inappropriate, incoherent, or disgusting, and, in so doing, curb the shame associated with these affects. Queer texts can also offer innovative ideas about intimacy, relationships, and the future.” – Tony Adams excerpt from Communication Perspectives on Popular Culture. 

 While not perfect (the politics of class and wealth are hard to avoid), Grace and Frankie complicates all of these issues in sometimes overt and other times really subtle ways. Questions such as: What is love? What does family mean? Can friendship be enough? What does it mean to get old? Are just some of the issues that play out on screen. I think Dr. Adams would like Grace and Frankie and I would sure like to talk to him about it.

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