Contagion + trailers
October 10, 2011
First off, Contagion is not science fiction. If we get something like the 1918 flu pandemic in a world with seven billion people in it, that’s something like 200 million dead worldwide. Mass graves, quarantined cities, it’s all here. For the last couple of years, I’ve been thinking I need to get a flu kit together, and this movie did more than anything else to spur me toward that.
The film is so visceral and terrifying, that it took me a little while to appreciate just how well done it is. It’s a very well paced, very well structured disaster movie, with a great sense of visual style and an impressive slate of actors (it’s the actors — Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Lawrence Fishburne, etc. etc. etc. — who got me into my seat in the first place). Another thing I really loved: no gratuitous angst and soap operas. The story had faith that its own material was gripping enough that it didn’t have to inject anything outrageous. We got personal stories, yes (Kate Winslet’s character’s arc pretty much destroyed me). But we didn’t have characters yelling at each other about their pain, which is what a lot of Hollywood seems to think constitutes good drama. Show, don’t tell, y’all. Works for movies, too. Especially for movies.
A note on the Bechdel Test and its limitations:
I go on and on about the Bechdel Test (a story must have at least two women characters who talk to each other about something other than men) because it illustrates so vividly just how male-centric entertainment media really is. Contagion is chock full of the kind of woman character I’m always agitating for: smart, capable, individual, performing a variety of jobs, with no actual reference to their gender. They’re just people. You could swap the genders of everyone in the movie (well, except for the pregnant journalist…) and the story wouldn’t change.
But I almost flunked the movie because with the exception of a 2-line argument, none of the women talk to each other. Then I realized: hardly any of the men talk to each other, either. There are maybe three scenes of men talking to each other. 90% of the movie is men and women talking to each other on an entirely professional basis. And that’s awesome! So, while the film may not technically pass the test, it absolutely fulfills the spirit of the test, with flying colors, and then some. (Unlike some films that pass technically, but not entirely in spirit — I’m looking at you, X-Men First Class.)
Finally saw the new Sherlock Holmes trailer. Win! But the thing that really made me giddy: Ghostbusters is being re-released for October, and the theater played the original theatrical trailer! Wah! How cool is that!