I actually haven't seen that many movies over the past few weeks -- too much else going on. But Curtis's comments about Super Size Me , along with many conversations I had about it while I was on my trip, reminded me I wanted to write a few notes about it. My expectations were probably too high for the film -- you already know basically the whole thing before you go in there -- and it's been at least 15 years since I ate anything at a fast food restaurant, so I'm not really directly affected by the topic. My impression is that the film (like a lot of documentaries) is preaching to the choir anyway -- the people who probably should see this film aren't likely to. I enjoyed watching the physical, visible changes as he went through the experiment -- and his doctors' surprise at how rapidly his body fell apart. But a lot of the film was repetitive -- as well as somewhat mean-spirited and simplistic in its critique -- lots of unnecessary shots of obese people in bathing suits for "humor" -- implying that all obese people eat fast food all the time, which isn't actually the case. I'm all for critiqueing the fast food industry, the meat industry, the dairy industry -- but this film isn't quite smart enough to fully make those arguments. Read Fast Food Nation or John Robbins's May All be Fed.
I also recently saw Venus Boyz, a wonderful documentary that's just been released on DVD. It follows a number of drag king performers -- some performance scenes, though much of the film is more interested in interviews, and behind-the-scenes. Some are straight; some are lesbians; some identify as transgender; some refuse any gender or sexual identity. All are amazing, charismatic, fascinating artists who deconstruct and challenge most ideas about gender and sexuality. (I've seen Mo B. Dick perform live, and some others -- definitely worth seeing if you can -- loads of fun and simultaneously intellectually powerful.) Includes some coverage of Diane Torr's Drag King Workshops -- which I think also appeared in one of the early seasons of Sex in the City (I've seen only a few episodes but somehow got to see that one)-- very interesting to see how easy it is to change someone's gender appearance. And for many women it's really transformative to learn male gestures, etc -- because it's all about taking up space in the world. Del LaGrace Volcano gets lots of screen time -- I knew his photographs, but was really charmed and impressed by his interviews in this film. Smart, thought-provoking film -- and a good counterpoint to Paris is Burning.
Finally: The Day After Tomorrow. What's not to like, if you like B-style movies: heroic nerds, weather disaster, post-apocalyptic survival, and overstated themes? But seriously, it was really refreshing to see all the Hollywood spectacle marshalled in service of ideas I believe in about preserving the environment and the current administration's culpability. Who cares if it wasn't totally believable -- this is the opposite of Super Size Me, in that I imagine some people will see this who otherwise wouldn't be thinking very much about the planet. (And, as a print culture historian: how many other impassioned speeches about the importance of the Gutenberg Bible are there in film? or action films set in libraries? Thumbs up for that, even if they did have to burn a few books.)