“Rain Man…is that John Travolta?” -Me (11th BPW)

Do you know what makes me sick? My husbands vast knowledge of random trivia facts. Especially movie trivia. Do you remember the game Scene It? Bobby ruined that game for everyone.

We were watching Jeopardy recently and the Final Jeopardy question was about, what else, Best Picture nominees. While not shushing me every two seconds for talking over Alex (I’m pretty sure this is Bobby’s second favorite pastime after nagging me to put the toilet paper back on the roll), he managed to get the right answer to: “Which film was the first Best Picture nominee to be produced by an online streaming service?” 🙄 It’s Manchester by the Sea, if you were wondering.

So going back to the title of this blog, I’m obviously mostly hopeless when it comes to movie trivia, unlike my better (at trivia) half. “I think you’re confusing Rain Man with Michael,” Bobby responded. And damn if he wasn’t right on the money…

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BPW #61 — Rain Man — 1988 — Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise

“What you have to understand is, four days ago he was only my brother in name. And this morning we had pancakes.” Charlie Babbitt.

Rating —

Bobby: 4 out of 5 stars

Niki: 4 out of 5 stars

Bobby’s Blurb: “Ugh. What do I usually give for blurbs? Okay…I’d watch Dustin Hoffman narrate paint drying if he did it as spectacularly as he played Rain Man.”

I agree that Dustin Hoffman did a spectacular job in this movie. He won Best Actor for his role, too, portraying the autistic savant Raymond Babbitt. Tom Cruise played Raymond’s brother, Charlie, and kind of annoyed me to death. That’s not unexpected, though. I’m not a fan.

The most interesting aspect of Rain Man, for me, was its treatment of mental illness. Charlie only finds out that he has a brother when his father dies, leaving him a paltry inheritance while the remainder of the estate was put into a trust for distribution to some mystery patient at a psychiatric institution. It turns out that this mystery patient is actually Charlie’s brother, Raymond, who has been institutionalized for most of his life. The movie’s big focus is on the developing relationship between the brothers as Charlie struggles with Raymond’s unusual behavior and Raymond has to navigate life outside of the insular institution he’s accustomed to.

Honestly, I was stunned by Charlie’s almost automatic inability to accept Raymond’s mental illness and how totally ignorant he was of autism in general. But almost thirty years ago the study of autism was really only just beginning. Autism wasn’t added to the DSM as a diagnosed mental disorder until 1980 (at that time being labeled “Infantile Autism” in order to differentiate it from Schizophrenia) and was then replaced with “Autistic Disorder” in 1987. It is now officially referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder in the DSM-V (2013).

The movies treatment of this disorder and the characters perceptions of it were likely a good reflection of how the general public felt about (or lacked education about) autism at the time the film was made, but was a shock to me in our age of increasing research and acceptance of mental disorders.

I also really enjoyed the dynamic between Charlie and Raymond and thought the actor’s did a good job of relating the emotions of their growing and changing relationship. One of my favorite scene’s was when Raymond farts in a phone booth that the brothers are both crammed in to, which apparently happened by accident and the actors just went with it. By the end of the movie I almost felt sorry for Tom Cruise’ character despite his many faults and had forgiven his original motivation for taking Raymond across country, which was to gain access to some portion of his brother’s new inheritance.

Overall, I would recommend giving it a chance. I’m going to have to fire my bartender for lack of a drink to go with this movie though.

Here’s a project I tackled last May (I think, but may have been August…) for my three nieces that were going off to college. It’s my first foray into applique of a sort and I think turned out pretty well. I need to check with them to see how they’re holding up though. I don’t have a super lot of faith in the longevity of the appliques sticking to fleece, but I have no experience to back this up. The blankets themselves are just tied and I cut the letters out of regular quilting fabric. I used interfacing behind the quilting fabric and made templates to trace the letters onto that, then cut everything out with very sharp scissors (which got sticky and disgusting as result, FYI). I tried cutting the letters first on my sister-in-laws devil machine (otherwise known as a *Silhouette*) with disastrous results, so I’m pretty impressed with how good these look considering it’s all by hand. Regarding the Silhouette: yes, I did use a fabric blade. And no, I do not know how to use the machine, hence disaster. 

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Another Stupid Bi(OH)pic (10th BPW)

Okay, there’s nothing inherently “stupid” about biopics, other than the pronunciation and/or spelling of the word itself. And apparently a whopping 16 of the BPW’s are biopics 😳. But I wasn’t super impressed with this one regardless.

If you’ve read my last post, you know that we discussed potentially skipping this movie because we were having so much difficulty getting it to play, but we pressed on! And rented it from Amazon for $2.99. Problem solved.

BPW #9: The Great Ziegfeld —1936

“Tell Mr. Ziegfeld, I’m not in and if I was in, I wouldn’t see him and if I did see him, tell him, I wouldn’t buy a thing.” Fanny Brice.

Rating —

Bobby: 2 out of 5 stars

Niki: 2 out of 5 stars

Bobby’s Blurb: Visually it looked good, but it didn’t age well.

The Great Ziegfeld was the first biopic to win Best Picture. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, it also won Oscar’s for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Luise Ranier as Anna Held) and Best Dance Direction for “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.”

The movie is billed as a “musical drama”, but I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere close to what you would consider a musical in the present age. In my humble opinion, it’s a drama that happens to have a few musical numbers.

The Great Ziegfeld follows the highs and lows of Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld Jr.’s career and love life. He was a showman (his most notable production was Show Boat) who was well known for his grandiose theatrical productions and his infidelities with women. Flo’s second wife, Billie Burke, allegedly went to great lengths to make sure the writer, William Anthony McGuire, did not dishonor Ziegfeld’s good name. As a result, his adulterous nature was significantly downplayed in the film.

Apparently the movie is still a standard in musical film making and its production costs were astronomical for the time period. The elaborate musical numbers were probably the most interesting parts of the movie for me, but overall three hours was far too long and it could have been much more succinct. Flo’s life doesn’t exactly have a happy ending either. He died during the Great Depression at the age of 65 from lung disease, leaving his second wife in substantial debt. You know I don’t like an unhappy ending, so that pretty much sealed the deal!

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It (was) the Christmas beer time of year, and Bobby and I have started a tradition of brewing a spiced ale at Christmas to give as gifts. Bobby’s goal is to build a 6 pack of 6 years of Angry Elf and then have a tasting of all of them to see which year is best.

The 2016 edition of Angry Elf is on the right and 2017 is on the left. Come to think of it, next year we should really put the year on the label. Anyway, last years beer was a big hit, so I wanted to submit it to the N.C. State Fair’s home brew competition. Bobby wanted nothing to do with this and insisted that I was wasting his precious beer (insert eye-roll here). So, I did it anyway. And I might have made the entry only under my name…

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So we won 2nd place out of 7 entries in our category and needless to say, Bobby was slightly perturbed that his name isn’t up there. Oops. I mean, next time he’ll think twice before grumping all over my fabulous ideas, right?!

The Day The Movie Blogging Died

But not really though. It’s just had a very long 8 (?) month hiatus.

See…what had happened was…we hit a roadblock, otherwise known as reaaalllly not wanting to watch the next movie on the list.

We did our normal, random draw and got #9: The Great Ziegfeld. It’s a musical and it’s 3 hours long. Lots of big sighs.

So we put it off. And put it off. And put it off. And then last weekend we finally decided to try to watch it and the Fire TV would not cooperate. Basically we were able to watch the five minute opening musical overture (seriously, five minutes. Of instrumental music) and then only bits and pieces before it would freeze and refuse to start again or play without sound, etc etc. Lots more big sighs.

We’re contemplating skipping it for now. We had a drink too, unrelated to the movie, but neither of us actually drank it. I don’t recommend a keto White Russian sweetened with stevia (🤢).

On a non-failure note, in rereading my blog I noticed that I mentioned a rag quilt I was working on, but never posted.

Tada! I attribute some of the success of this blanket to the fact that I used a really beautiful moda charm pack and was not in any way responsible for matching fabrics. Except I chose the flowered flannel for the back side. Cutting the edges was a total pain in the ass, but the construction of the blanket in general was super easy. I’m planning to make a baby blanket with this method sometime in the near future using mostly scraps 🙌🏻.

I have a couple other projects to post about that I’ve completed over the last few months, but I will save them for later.

Now time to plan our next movie night…

Finally, a Five Star Rating! (9th BPW)

I previously mentioned that I wasn’t sure what it would take for a Best Picture Winner to get a five star rating from me, but it turns out it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. Before we even finished this BPW, I had made up my mind to give it five stars. The strange thing is that I wasn’t looking forward to watching this movie, and even remembered disliking it when I was forced to watch it in a High School history class. Ten plus years later and I’m a very different person! Which, interestingly, led to a very different movie watching experience.

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BPW #16: Casablanca — 1942 — Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman

“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Rick Blaine. (Also, “Here’s looking at you, kid” and “We’ll always have Paris.”)

“Play it, Sam.” Ilsa Lund. (Often misquoted as “Play it again, Sam.” Rick also shouts, “Play it!” to Sam in another scene, referring to the same song, “As Time Goes By”, which was definitely stuck in my head long after the movie ended.)

Rating —

Bobby: 4 out of 5 stars

Niki: 5 out of 5 stars

Bobby’s Blurb: “I’ll never be as cool as Humphrey Bogart in that movie.”

Casablanca was based on an unproduced stage play called, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s.” The day after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, which occurred on December 7th of 1941 and triggered the United States official entry into the Second World War, a Warner Brothers reader began evaluating the play as a possible movie. At that time studios were racing to get patriotic pictures into production and shortly thereafter they did just that with Casablanca. 

The plot centers around Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine, an American expat who owns an upscale bar in the city of Casablanca. As explained in the movie, Casablanca served as a major stepping stone on the escape route for those running from the Nazi regime and, more importantly, trying to get to America. Rick ends up having to help his former lover, Ilsa Lund, and her husband, a famous resistance leader who had escaped from a concentration camp, avoid recapture and travel to the United States.

Casablanca was an overtly anti-Nazi film and fun fact (!) many of the actors who played Nazis in the film were in fact actual German Jews who had escaped from Nazi Germany. During the famous scene where “La Marseillaise” (French National Anthem) is sung over the German song “Watch on the Rhine,” many of the extras had real tears in their eyes. I had fun singing along to the lyrics of “La Marseillaise” that I was familiar with during this part of the film, much to Bobby’s confusion. I have my sister to thank for that, who learned it in French class and thought it was fun to use for “car karaoke” Katie Catton style. I suspect some of you may have, unfortunately, also been subjected to a version of this at some point in the friendship if you know her. *EYE ROLL*

Really this movie is the epitome of a classic, to me. It meets and exceeds all the criteria. Solid, star performers for the time period. Completely on point and relevant, also for the time period. Compelling throughout, with some humor, some drama, some action — just exceptionally well rounded. The fact that so many quotes from this movie have seeped into popular culture speaks clearly to its relevance and staying power, even if many people (formerly me) couldn’t tell you specifically where the quote came from!

But the most interesting part of all of this, for me, is that my reception of Casablanca was so different during the present stage of my life than it was when I was in High School. For some bizarre reason I thought I remembered Ilsa’s character dying at the end of the film. No idea where that came from. But more importantly, I remember not being satisfied by the ending. I can only imagine that my 16/17 year old self was unhappy that Rick and Ilsa, two people who were so clearly in love, did not end up together. Fast forward to now and I grumbled throughout the movie that the lying bitch didn’t deserve her husband and I kind of wish she HAD died in the end! Just kidding, I almost never like when major characters die at the end of movies. Ilsa thought her husband, who had been sent to a concentration camp, was dead and this was why she allowed herself to become involved with Rick in Paris. I get it, and I don’t demonize her for that. But COME ON, she had every opportunity to come clean to her husband after that, to be honest and tell him what had happened, but instead she ran around trying to fix everything herself and continued to trample all over poor Rick’s heart and the life he had set up for himself while trying to forget about her. She didn’t deserve him and he was the better person for sending her away with her husband to a new life in America. That’s it, I’ve said my peace and I am done.

Last thing is the drink.

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A champagne cocktail. Because, if you’ve seen this movie, duh. The characters almost exclusively drink champagne and order champagne cocktails like, the whole movie. I actually really enjoyed mine! And on another note…

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I want some champagne coupe glasses like these ones. Preferably antique ones. Somebody keep an eye out for me.

Mispronouncing Biopic (8th BPW)

Note: I can’t settle on a good way of naming these blogs to save my life. And I got bored with movie titles. Also I need a tutorial on customizing Wordpress, which is sad.

Do you know that I JUST learned how to correctly pronounce the word biopic? It’s “bi-oh (pause) pick” rather than “bi-ah-pick” (no pause). Yes, biopic is short for biographical picture, so obviously the former pronunciation makes logical sense. But if you ask me, there should be a space in between bio and pic in order for this pronunciation to work with a quick eye-scan. Even in reading over this blog post and sounding everything out in my head, I cannot for the life of me say the word correctly! Language can be super annoying. Especially for people like me who read so much and developed their language more through text than by hearing words spoken, because I frequently mispronounce things due to sounding them out incorrectly in my own head.

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BPW #43: Patton — 1970 — George C. Scott

“Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.” Patton.

Rating —

Bobby: 4 out of 5 stars

Niki: 2 out of 5 stars

Bobby’s Blurb: Other than complaining about having to give me a blurb…”I think the goal of a biopic is to give you a feeling of who the person is and they did that very well. Instead of focusing on the action and the battles, they really gave you a sense of who Patton was.”

Sure! This is accurate. But I was still bored and I don’t like war movies, even biographical ones. I did appreciate that it wasn’t all just a bunch of gory battle scenes, although there were plenty of those. But you have to remember that this was 1970 and the special effects, design, graphics, etc. were not much to see at this point in time. I could have done without the random, skeletal dog chained to a tank at the beginning of the movie, also. Still don’t get the point of that and it upset me.

Patton is a biopic about the American WWII General George S. Patton. If you haven’t watched Patton, you may still have seen the iconic opening scene (shown in the poster above) re-enacted comedically by Bugs Bunny and I bet you didn’t even know it was from this movie! (I didn’t).  Fun fact: George C. Scott refused to film the famous speech in front of the American flag when he learned that the director, Franklin J. Schaffner, intended to put it at the opening. His opinion was that his performance for the remainder of the film could not live up to that scene and he did not want it at the beginning. Schaffner solved the problem by lying to Scott and telling him that it would appear at the end of the film. Nice!

The other contenders for Best Picture at the 43rd Academy Awards were Airport, Five Easy Pieces, Love Story, and MASH. Scott won the Oscar for Best Actor and became the first actor to reject the award, claiming that the Academy Awards were “a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons.” Smart man.

Another fun fact: the ivory-handled revolvers Scott wears in the opening speech were Patton’s actual revolvers. Bobby invented a drink for this movie and named it after one of the two weapons!

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  • 2.5 oz Ballantine’s scotch
  • 1 oz Fernet-Branca
  • Splash Grand Marnier
  • 1.5 oz lime juice
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • Ginger Ale

Combine lime juice and honey. Warm to thin honey. Add spirits and top up with ginger ale and ice. Stir in salt.

68th Best Picture Winner: Braveheart and a new quilt! (7)

IMG_3193Bobby has recently become obsessed with hammocks.  IMG_3191

So we watched our most recent Best Picture Winner outside from the comfort of hammocks under a carport. I actually spent the last hour of the movie being viciously attacked by demon mosquitoes so the comfort aspect is seriously questionable.

 

Before we climbed into our hammocks, we had cocktails. IMG_3186From The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, CA I bring you the Braveheart: “an off-the-menu scotch drink with ginger and lemon” [recipe].

I would say that based on this picture and the description, it looks and sounds delicious. Unfortunately, the bartender read a different recipe first that didn’t indicate the fresh ginger juice should be mixed with simple syrup, so the fantastic looking cocktail pictured here actually has enough ginger in it to practically knock you dead. We doctored them up with some ginger ale to make them drinkable and the flavors were actually really good if you like ginger (so long as it isn’t trying to kill you). Making ginger juice was pretty easy also, you just need some some cheesecloth, a juicer or food processor, and patience for peeling ginger. Of course the ginger peeling was my job 🙂

 

#68: Braveheart — 1995 — Mel GibsonBraveheart_imp

“They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” William Wallace.

Rating —

Bobby: 4 out of 5 stars

Niki: 3 out of 5 stars

Bobby’s Blurb: We almost didn’t have one because I forgot to get it until nearly a week after watching the movie and then Bobby said he hadn’t given me one that night because I was mean to him after watching the movie and he didn’t remember what I had done exactly, but he wasn’t going to give me one now, either. For reals? Then he ended up talking about what he thought about the movie anyway and I just wrote it down.

“It wasn’t as good the second time, I feel like partly because it was so long. It’s hard to keep your attention for that long, especially when you’ve already seen the movie and know what happens.”

Bobby 0 : Niki 1

So I agree with Bobby, and I have decided post watching this movie again and doing some research on it that I really dislike Mel Gibson and this dislike is affecting my view of the movie in general. Also, at the end of the day it really isn’t that special. And I don’t see it having any real, lasting cultural impact, which for some reason has become important to me in a Best Picture?

It really bothers me that the movie is based on a historical person, William Wallace, but is almost 100% historically inaccurate. Allegedly, if one believes certain assertions on Wikedpedia (yes, that was an intentional misspelling), Mel justified his choices as director in a DVD audio commentary for the movie, saying that it was more “cinematically compelling” to portray events in the way that he chose to do so in the film rather than basing them on historical fact or myth. This makes me roll my eyes SO HARD.

I don’t really have anything else to say about the movie so…NEW QUILT!

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I made this one for my Grandfather who is a Canadian WWII vet, hence the poppies. I’m not super thrilled with the quilting itself, honestly, and as a result of laziness and not ironing my backing fabric (UGH) there are some wrinkles that got quilted into the backing. The quilting isn’t my fave because my lines are pretty crookedy throughout and my stitches are frequently uneven and it just looks kind of sloppy if you look at it really close up. I think ultimately the lessons learned are 1: iron and quit being lazy, and 2: if you’re going to choose a bold thread that will stand out for your quilting then be prepared to step up your quilting game and put more time into it, which I didn’t do. My piecing, on the other hand, I’m pretty proud of. At the end of the day I felt like my blocks all matched up really well and it looks good overall from a broad, not close-up aspect.

I’m making a rag-quilt next and I have literally a week from today to start and finish it so…that should be fun! Look for a blog about that coming up soon!

64th BPW: The Silence of the Lambs (6)

So you know how I said that I like zombies? This is still accurate, but do you know what I like even MORE than zombies? Serial killers. I’ve seen every episode of the original CSI and Law and Order SVU, the episodes that follow serial offenders being my favorites of course, and am equally obsessed with Criminal Minds (Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders is good too if you like the original show). I now fondly remember the days when my former roommate and first ever college friend, Katherine, would groan over how corny Gil Grissom was and I would cut my eyes at her and tell her she was ruining the fun. These days my mother-in-law and I watch new episodes of Criminal Minds together and my father-in-law complains that he hates it and thinks it’s depressing. I can see the truth in this (in fact ten years ago I would have agreed with him), and yet I’m fascinated all the same. But there has to be some humor or cheesiness thrown in there with the dismemberment, demon worship, etc. or else I’m on Tom’s side.

That being the case, our next Best Picture Winner (BPW) was right up my ally!

#64: The Silence of the Lambs — 1991 — Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins

“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Hannibal Lecter.

Bobby and I paired the movie with homemade shrimp and blue cheese stuffed crust pizza and Chianti, of course.

Rating —

Bobby: 4 out of 5 stars

Niki: 4 out of 5 stars

Bobby’s Blurb: “It’s rated so high because the storyline is good and because Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster did such a great job, but the filming itself is not that great. There’s nothing that earth shattering about it, you know what I mean?” Nope, Bobby. You’re directing this question to the wrong non-film critic.

I kind of disagree with him, actually. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT trying to analyze this movie from a cinematography standpoint because that is all kinds of not my forte, but I did find several aspects of the filming to be quite interesting. And from my research it appears that I am not alone. I would guess that what I was able to find in a quick google search is only a tiny fraction of what has been written about this movie and it seems to be a popular subject for film analysis. Much of the filming was done as if to break the elusive “fourth wall”, where the actor speaks (or looks) directly to the audience. Director Jonathan Demme used this technique to great effect throughout much of the movie, focusing on the eyes of the actors as they look directly into the camera. This was particularly noticeable, in my opinion, during the scenes at the asylum when Clarice is interviewing Lecter. The perspective was often narrowed down exclusively to Hannibal’s face as he taunted and questioned her, visually creating a tense and terrorizing atmosphere while developing a sense of fear and loathing in the audience directed towards the conniving serial killer.

From an Academy Awards standpoint, The Silence of the Lambs was only the third movie to win Academy Awards in all five major categories, which include: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay. It also remains the only BPW that is widely considered to be a horror film (other “horror” nominees having been considered are Jaws in ’75 and the Exorcist in ’73). Considering Silence to be a horror movie, I feel, is terribly inaccurate. It’s a thriller, plain and simple. It follows the classic mold of a thriller and there are only two somewhat disturbing scenes that might qualify it for horror status, but that I still don’t feel rise quite to that level. Maybe I’m so against this label because I absolutely hate horror movies, and really enjoyed The Silence of the Lambs. Oddly enough, one film that terrified me and that I qualify as horror is widely considered to be a thriller and I am frequently told is “not scary”. That would be The Sixth Sense, the movie, which, next to the original It, has probably had the most formative impact on my dislike of horror. I don’t do ghosts. Period. I informed my husband that if The Sixth Sense were a BPW, I would not be meeting the challenge of watching every one of them, because I was not re-watching that movie unless you taped me to a chair and held my eyelids open. I’m infinitely more scared of ghosts than serial killers because of this illogical analysis: I firmly believe that it is more likely ghosts exist and might torment me than that I will ever run afoul of a serial killer. I know you are saying to yourself, but serial killers do actually, really and truly, exist. My response is, and your point?

Fun fact: in a rare act of cooperation at that time, the FBI actually allowed scenes to be filmed at the FBI Academy in Quantico and some FBI staff members even acted in bit parts.

There were socio political aspects of this film as well that have been cause for an equal number of research papers, film reviews, discussion posts etc. The major issues were both feminism and the portrayal of a cross-dressing or transsexual man, this label changing depending on the opinion of the person you ask. The film was criticized by members of the LGBT community for its portrayal of Buffalo Bill, the serial killer whom FBI agent Clarice Starling was trying to find with the help of the renowned former psychiatrist and convicted cannibal Hannibal Lecter. Director Demme responded to the criticism by commenting that Buffalo Bill was not a gay character, but rather a tormented man who hated himself and wanted to be a woman. Obviously the only way to achieve this noble purpose was to kill women and skin them so that he could make a woman-skin suit!

This apparently upset the notable feminist icon Betty Friedan who, in an interview with Playboy magazine, stated that she did not like the fact that women were being skinned alive in the film and stated that this is what she found offensive, not the Playboy centerfold. Upon further investigation I found that prior to this she said (and this makes far more sense to me), “Another big thing in TV and movies is portraying women only when they are in jeopardy.” I’m going to have to disagree with Betty on this point though (in relation to Silence) because Jodie Foster’s character is confronted at almost every turn by extremely sexist attitudes toward her and she fights the entire movie to confront these gender based obstacles of male power and dominance. Friedan might have a point about the victims of the serial killer in the film (although I can also see how this holds true to real life victims of serial killers in many cases), but the real triumph and focus of the movie is Clarice kicking ass and coming out on top, as a woman, not being cowed by the men that are determined to keep her in her supposed place.

I leave this review wondering what my criteria is for a five star movie and I have absolutely no idea. Going to have to think some more on that one.