Linda Stirling Unmasked: The Black Whip




AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

5/31/21

Cruella is the perfect kids’ movie for a culture that celebrates cruelty and malignant megalomania

Michael McCaffrey
Michael McCaffrey

Michael McCaffrey is a writer and cultural critic who lives in Los Angeles. His work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog. He is also the host of the popular cinema podcast Looking California and Feeling Minnesota. Follow him on Twitter @MPMActingCo

Cruella is the perfect kids’ movie for a culture that celebrates cruelty and malignant megalomania
Disney has discarded the old princess narrative and, under the guise of self-empowerment, is now teaching generations of young girls to embrace self-serving toxicity.

This article contains minor spoilers for ‘Cruella’.

In the new Disney movie ‘Cruella’ the Rolling Stones classic ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ plays over the film’s final scene, which felt a bit too on the nose for the origin story of a notorious character that will go on to attempt to skin puppies for the sake of fashion. 

Cruella, of course, is Cruella de Vil, the infamous arch villain of the iconic animated film ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’. With this new, live-action, reimagined reboot starring Emma Stone, we discover why Cruella hates dalmatians so much and how she rose to power. 

What we really learn, though, is that the suits at Disney will go to any lengths to plumb the depths of their intellectual property vault to make money and corrode the culture.

Cruella, whose real name is Estella, is at first set in a sort of Dickensian London, where we learn of her troubled childhood. The film then magically shifts into the stylishly swinging London of the 60s and 70s, where Estella graduates from good girl gone bad to bad girl grown up. 

The soundtrack, which is easily the best part of the movie, reflects that time period, featuring an abundance of classics from the Doors, Queen, Nina Simone, ELO, Tina Turner, the Clash, and the aforementioned Stones.

Unfortunately, like seemingly all Disney films, ‘Cruella’ is a shameless money grab in the form of a two hour and 14-minute advertisement for Disney’s vast catalogue of past movie hits and its newfound woke politics.

Director Craig Gillespie has experience making movies about cartoonishly villainous women, as evidenced by his terrific film ‘I, Tonya’, about disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, but on ‘Cruella’ he seems desperately out of place. 

The film’s star, Emma Stone, doesn’t fare much better. Stone is a likeable screen presence, but she is all bark and no bite as Cruella, as the threadbare script makes little human sense and reduces her acting to histrionics.

The film’s massive $200 million budget doesn’t translate into stunning visuals, either, as the film looks just okay and lacks any remarkable cinematic moments. 

It’s also painfully derivative, generously borrowing from other, much better films like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’, ‘Joker’, ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’ and ‘V for Vendetta’. 

The biggest problem with ‘Cruella’, though, is that it can’t quite figure out what exactly it wants to be. It’s too dark to be for kids and too silly to be for adults. Yet, despite the movie’s PG13 rating, it would appear from the movie’s rather ludicrous plot and minimal character development that the target audience is impressionable pre-teen girls, which is unfortunate since the film’s moral perspective is less than idyllic. 

Even though there are shades of Cinderella in ‘Cruella’, there are certainly no princesses to be found. The old days of the Disney princess are long gone, and some may say good riddance, but now the corporate behemoth Mickey Mouse built is pivoting to not just churning out generic girl power movies, but with ‘Cruella’, bad-girl girl power movies. 

This is a bad-girl versus bad-girl movie, a battle of the bitches if you will, where Cruella (Emma Stone) faces off against her fashion designer nemesis Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson – doing a second-rate Meryl Streep imitation), with the most-cruel and conniving female fashionista winning the stylish bad-girl championship crown with belt to match. 

I’m old enough to remember when ‘Joker’ came out in 2019 and hysterical establishment critics shrieked in horror, declaring it dangerous because Joker was the “patron saint of incels” who’d inspire white men to violence. Joker was rated R and obviously geared towards adults, but ‘Cruella’? It’s for 10-year-old girls and is designed, under the guise of self-empowerment, to encourage the selfish, bitchy, and viciously toxic behavior of brats of all ages. 

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And don’t be fooled: Disney knows exactly what it’s doing, as it clearly understands full well the power of pop culture to persuade, which is why it wouldn’t allow Stone to smoke as Cruella, despite that being a signature trait of the character. 

God only knows what deleterious effect ‘Cruella’ will have on generations of girls in a nation already filled with a plethora of narcissistic Karen De Vils. 

Of course, ‘Cruella’ is inoculated against that sort of moral and/or cultural criticism from mainstream critics because it has the “proper” woke perspective and a “diverse” and “inclusive” cast, where most of the “heroes” are women, minorities, or both. 

Among these heroes are Cruella, a genius taking on the small-minded patriarchy; Anita, the black female gossip columnist defiantly helping Cruella’s cause; Artie, the gay fashionista who fights for all things fabulous; and Jasper, Cruella’s right-hand person of color.

Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with telling a story about an anti-hero or villain. These stories can have great value in that they help a culture assimilate its shadow and ultimately find catharsis. ‘Joker’ is a perfect example of this, and so could ‘Cruella’ be if it were made for adults.

‘Cruella’, though, is a sign of a culture intent on destroying itself; it’s a kids’ movie that teaches young girls to identify with and have sympathy for this undeniably immoral and malignant megalomaniacal she-devil, all while it celebrates cruelty. 

I guess a corrosive kids’ movie like ‘Cruella’ was inevitable, since we live in a popular, political, and social culture populated with so many cruel, immoral, malignantly megalomaniacal adults. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for...” which is why I definitely wouldn’t recommend paying for ‘Cruella’.

3/8/21

THE WOMEN FILM CRITICS CIRCLE AWARDS

The Women Film Critics Circle announces its 2O20 Awards on March 8th International Women's Day for the best movies this year by and about women - and outstanding achievements by women, who get to be rarely honored historically in the film world.

The Women Film Critics Circle is an association of 80 women film critics and scholars from around the country and internationally, who are involved in print, radio, online and TV broadcast media. They came together in 2004 to form the first women critics’ organization in the United States, in the belief that women’s perspectives and voices in film criticism need to be recognized fully. WFCC also prides itself on being the most culturally and racially diverse critics group in the country by far, and best reflecting the diversity of movie audiences.

BEST MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN











WINNER: Promising Young Woman

Runner Up: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Ammonite

Antebellum


BEST MOVIE BY A WOMAN

WINNER: Nomadland - Chloe Zhao

Runner Up: Promising Young Woman - Emerald Fennell

Never Rarely Sometimes Always - Eliza Hittman

One Night in Miami - Regina King


BEST WOMAN STORYTELLER (Screenwriting Award)

WINNER: Never Rarely Sometimes Always - Eliza Hittman

Runner Up: Promising Young Woman - Emerald Fennell

Nomadland - Chloe Zhao

The United States vs. Billie Holiday - Suzan-Lori Parks


BEST ACTRESS

WINNER: Carey Mulligan - Promising Young Woman

Runner Up (tie): Frances McDormand - Nomadland

Runner Up (tie): Vanessa Kirby - Pieces of a Woman

Andra Day - The United States vs. Billie Holiday


BEST ACTOR

WINNER: Chadwick Boseman - Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Runner Up: Anthony Hopkins - The Father

Riz Ahmed - Sound of Metal

Tahar Rahim - The Mauritanian


BEST FOREIGN FILM BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

WINNER: La Llorona

Runner Up: True Mothers

The Truth (La Verite)

Two of Us (Deux)


BEST DOCUMENTARY BY OR ABOUT WOMEN

WINNER: Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story

Runner Up: Time

All In

I Am Greta


BEST EQUALITY OF THE SEXES

WINNER: Emma

Runner Up: I Care a Lot

Malcolm & Marie

Radioactive


BEST ANIMATED FEMALE

WINNER: Fei Fei - Over the Moon

Runner Up: Mebh Og MacTire - Wolfwalkers

Libba - Soul

Robyn Goodfellowe - Wolfwalkers


BEST SCREEN COUPLE

WINNER: Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan - Ammonite

Runner Up: Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel - News of the World

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti - Palm Springs

Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier - Two of Us (Deux)


*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD – For a film that most passionately opposes violence against women

*ADRIENNE SHELLY AWARD: Adrienne Shelly was a promising actress and filmmaker who was brutally strangled in her apartment in 2006 at the age of forty by a construction worker in the building, after she complained about noise. Her killer tried to cover up his crime by hanging her from a shower rack in her bathroom, to make it look like suicide. He later confessed that he was having a "bad day." Shelly, who left behind a baby daughter, had just completed her film Waitress, which she also starred in, and which was honored at Sundance after her death.

WINNER: Promising Young Woman

Runner Up: The Invisible Man

I’m Your Woman

The Assistant


*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD – For best expressing the woman of color experience in America

*JOSEPHINE BAKER AWARD: The daughter of a laundress and a musician, Baker overcame being born black, female and poor, and marriage at age fifteen, to become an internationally acclaimed legendary performer, starring in the films Princess Tam Tam, Moulin Rouge and Zou Zou. She also survived the race riots in East St. Louis, Illinois as a child, and later expatriated to France to escape US racism. After participating heroically in the underground French Resistance during WWII, Baker returned to the US where she was a crusader for racial equality. Her activism led to attacks against her by reporter Walter Winchell who denounced her as a communist, leading her to wage a battle against him. Baker was instrumental in ending segregation in many theaters and clubs, where she refused to perform unless integration was implemented.

WINNER: Miss Juneteenth

Runner Up: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Antebellum

The Forty-Year-Old Version


*KAREN MORLEY AWARD – For best exemplifying a woman's place in history or society, and a courageous search for identity

*KAREN MORLEY AWARD: Karen Morley was a promising Hollywood star in the 1930s, in such films as Mata Hari and Our Daily Bread. She was driven out of Hollywood for her leftist political convictions by the Blacklist and for refusing to testify against other actors, while Robert Taylor and Sterling Hayden were informants against her. And also for daring to have a child and become a mother, unacceptable for female stars in those days. Morley maintained her militant political activism for the rest of her life, running for Lieutenant Governor on the American Labor Party ticket in 1954. She passed away in 2003, unrepentant to the end, at the age of 93.

WINNER: The United States vs. Billie Holiday

Runner Up: Shirley

Radium Girls

The Glorias


ACTING AND ACTIVISM AWARD

Regina King - The first celebrity to commit to the Time’s Up '4% Challenge' which urges the industry to hire more women directors, the award winning actress has also pledged to have women make up fifty percent of the crews for her films.


LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Julie Andrews


**WFCC PAULINE KAEL SPECIAL JURY AWARDS 2020**











'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising.' - Pauline Kael


BEST FEMALE ACTION HERO 







Janelle Monae, Antebellum

Jodie Foster, The Mauritanian


COURAGE IN FILMMAKING

Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman  

Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always


COURAGE IN ACTING  

[Taking on unconventional roles that radically redefine the images of women on screen]

Janelle Monae, Antebellum 

Elisabeth Moss, The Invisible Man


WOMEN'S WORK - BEST ENSEMBLE CAST  

Radium Girls

The Glorias


THE INVISIBLE WOMAN AWARD 

[Supporting performance by a woman whose exceptional impact on the film dramatically, socially or historically, has been ignored]

Cicely Tyson, A Fall From Grace

Dianne Wiest, I Care A Lot  


BEST KEPT SECRET - Overlooked Challenging Gems

Ammonite

Swallow


WOMEN SAVING THEMSELVES AWARD

Claire Dunne: Herself

Elisabeth Moss: The Invisible Man


MOMMIE DEAREST WORST SCREEN MOM OF THE YEAR 












SARAH PAULSON - RUN


HALL OF SHAME [Individual Member Picks]

Rudy Giuliani - For removing any doubt about the kind of creepy predator he is, in Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Of course there were no consequences for his behavior, even though it was captured on film and broadcast worldwide. 


Dennis Harvey - In his Variety review for Promising Young Woman, stating Carey Mulligan is not 'hot enough' for the role. Not to mention perpetuating the lie that rape is about sex and not violence against women. And, why we need women film critics more than ever...  


The Prom - For casting straight actors in queer roles in the most anticipated lesbian movie of the year, and making it seem like overcoming homophobia is as simple as singing a song.


Dallas Sonnier and Adam Donaghey - For sexual harassment and abuse at Cineaste Magazine, and the cover-up.