After several painful minutes of perusing Netflix, wondering why they don’t have better search features (there’s no full length list of movies in each genre, just a collection of the ones they think you’ll like?), I gave up and switched to HBOGo, realizing that I had a date with the one and only perfect human specimen that is Zac Efron.
Cue swooning. Disclaimer, this was my FIRST EVER NICHOLAS SPARKS MOVIE. Yeah, I never bought into it, because The Notebook is overhyped and the others are just re-creations of the same clichés. If I were to describe my pre-viewing perception of Nicholas Sparks romances in one word, it would be heavy-handed. It’s emotional whipping, perfectly set up by a foolproof formula that Nicholas Sparks uses for different character tropes like a Mad Lib. I mean, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth would never fall in love in real life, am I right? But then again I would watch Zac Efron in a Lifetime movie about a DMV worker named Tobias who just loves his job and wants nothing to change (call me Lifetime if you have any thoughts).
The movie is melodramatic even by my standards (I will support the claim that Les Misérables and Titanic use melodrama appropriately, so I have a very high “Oh brother” threshold). Nicholas Sparks just seems to think that our soulmate is just around the corner, and with a little hackneyed language and declarations about the meaning of life, we can find true love with anyone. See example below.
So my boo Zac plays this U.S. Marine, Logan, who, one morning after a night raid, finds a glossy photograph glimmering amongst the rubble. He walks over to pick it up, and just as he stares into the eyes of the mysterious woman in the picture, a bomb lands on the exact place where he had just been sitting. Eight months later, while looking at the picture again, driving a Humvee, and talking with his best friend about how the woman in the picture is his guardian angel, an explosion kills his best friend and presumably some other people (this whole scene is like 30 seconds I didn’t understand it). Logan finishes his third tour and comes home to live with his sister’s family. After his two nephews try to play a prank on him by waking him up and he almost accidentally chokes the younger one to death, Logan makes a cute little vlog telling his sister that he must leave her home and find peace with himself. With some savvy Google techniques, Logan uses the lighthouse in the back of his guardian angel picture to track down his savior, which means walking from Colorado to Louisiana? Everything leading up to this moment has taken 10 minutes, and the opening credits roll as Logan and his faithful German Shepard, Zeus, walk across the country. It’s over the top and you know what…
Zefron finds his guardian angel lady, named Beth, but is overwhelmed by his emotions and instead accepts a job working as a helping hand in her dog kennel business… They fall in love THE END. Another odd thing I noticed about the movie is that it skips over all of the happy parts through montage, but drags the miserable parts out like slow peeling Band-Aids. When Logan gets the hang of his dog-washing/walking gig, he and Beth finally start to see eye to eye. We later find out that Beth’s brother was a marine and died a year ago, which makes her slow growing love for Logan, whom she often compares to her brother, even more awkward. Beth lives with her son, her grandmother, and occasionally gets into fights with her ex-husband, who is the son of the only judge in town and therefore he feels the need to remind Beth how blessed she is that she won the custody battle for her son, but can at any time lose him to her psychotic cop ex-husband. Hence this dazzling one-liner.
But when Logan and Beth’s son start bonding - montage. When Logan and Beth bond and wash dogs together - montage. I guess you can’t really do sad moments through montage, but I’m not sure if they felt they were pressed for time, since the film is 1 hour 40 minutes, or they just didn’t want you being too happy for too long. Anyway, enough about the boring aspects of this movie, because there is actually a lot of interesting stuff going on here, and yes it obviously has to do with a shirtless Zac Efron.
For decades, the film industry has been male run and operated. That means, male characters are written by men, and female characters are written through the eyes of men. In cinematography as well, shots are done through what is referred to in feminist theory as “the male gaze,” meaning that they are shot through a male’s perspective. This forces both male and female audiences to see through a male’s perspective. Think of films like Piranha 3D, how often are there gratuitous boob shots, and where are the shots of shirtless guys partying it up? Think of Titanic, where the Kate Winslet’s boob just sits on the screen for an insane amount of time, or Shakespeare in Love, where Gwyneth Paltrow majestically spins as the cloth holding her boobs pressed against her chest comes off. This Mad Men gif simplifies what the male gaze looks like in cinema.
But sometimes, male actors come along that are so physically alluring, that directors can’t help but shoot them as sexual objects for the viewing pleasure of “the female gaze.” The term isn’t actually used, but in the past few years, cinema has accommodated for such a thing. Cue Magic Mike gif.
Magic Mike is the pinnacle of a “female gaze” film. It exists solely as an erotic display of the male form (I’m pretending the non-stripping scenes didn’t exist because they are pitifully boring and static). The camera operates as a lens through which a woman or gay man would watch the object on display. The term that used to be used was “homoerotic gaze” because there didn’t even used to be female directors, so it had to be assumed that the cinematography was done for a gay audience. The iconic figure in the homoerotic gaze is the French actor, Alain Delon. Delon starred in dozens of films from the 1960s to the 1980s, and each time he is put on display to be gawked at. Audiences described him as so radiantly erotic that films catered to his physical objectification in ways that would make his characters seem superficial, if it weren’t for his talented acting skills.
Even John Travolta had been subject to this, in films like Grease and Saturday Night Fever, where camera angles seek to display his body as a male specimen to be watched. But recently, the female gaze has become so insanely overt, in films like Magic Mike, any movie with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Teen Wolf, and that deleted scene with Ryan Gosling undressing in Place Beyond The Pines that everyone is talking about. The Lucky One is definitely high up on the list, because as I noticed, every romantic scene is focused on Zac. And for good reason obviously.
In fact, all of the lovemaking scenes contain so little of Beth, played by Taylor Schilling, and focus almost exclusively on Zac’s physique.
So, in essence, the film is a voyeuristic look at the one and only Zac Efron, with a boring and overdramatic storyline that is meant to be completely ignored. It got a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, but made $100 million on a $25 million budget. After viewing the film in its entirety (and then some parts again), I had to double check that Nicholas Sparks was still married to a woman, as well as the director Scott Hicks. To me, the camera’s gaze of Zac seemed so obviously intentional, but I guess that’s what you have to do when your target audience is a million percent female. But then can someone explain the intention of this shot?
GOD BLESS THIS DAY.
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