Girls on Film is a weekly column that tackles anything and everything pertaining to women and cinema. It can be found here every Thursday night, and be sure to follow the Girls on Film Twitter Feed for additional femme-con.
It’s easy to hate the Christmas-centric holiday season. The safe cushion of Thanksgiving is gone, and the marketing machine has descended with full, money-sucking force. Irascible rants about commercialization are unavoidable after the umpteenth commercial, or even worse, the way Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta co-opted Grease moves to make their wildly unpalatable and attention-seeking Christmas album seem like a good thing. But underneath all that muck is great, mid-winter magic that keeps the dark, December doldrums at bay – holiday alchemy in the form of twinkling trees, mysterious gifts, crooning tunes, warm cocoa, and of course, magic movies.
I’ve always experienced a little jolt of aggravation when people completely write off the holiday and the gift giving that comes with it. Like anything, the day is what you make of it. You can indenture yourself to marketing and celebrate as television commercials see fit, or create your own idiosyncratic customs. (If a pickle can become a holiday symbol, anything can.) You can follow the mainstream gift-giving pressures.
It’s a simple case of listening and implementing; paying attention to those little declarations of like and love, and when it’s time to get a gift, implementing it within your means. With the Internet at our fingertips it’s easy to transform the simple film-lovers gift – a poster here, a DVD there – into something much more unforgettable. Our current DIY culture is overflowing with awesome art and collectibles, the perfect accoutrement that turns the straightforward into the unexpected. Consider this your femme-centric starting point to killer female-themed film gifts for the women (and men) in your life.
The Avengers kicked box office ass, earning almost half a billion more than the second most successful film, The Dark Knight Rises. With her turn as the Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson completely wiped away any apprehension about her cinematic future and proved that she could be instrumental to saving the world just as easily as she could muse about art and sex in Woody Allen’s idea of Barcelona.
Natasha might be infuriatingly absent on the cover of certain combo packs, but she shines alone in this minimalist poster and the uber-realistic collectible figure (even if, sadly, you can’t zipper up that damn cat suit). If Black Widow fandom intersects with a love of Community, there’s no better option than the above “Human Beings Assemble,” which features the Dean as Ms. Romanov (not to mention Annie looking killer as Hawkeye).
Admiration should also extend to Johansson herself, who has come a long way since her first starring role in 1996’s Manny & Lo. An appreciation pack of Lost in Translation, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Ghost World are a great way to celebrate her 18-year career while indulging in her most critically acclaimed films, and can be spiced up with a copy of her breathy, electronic, Lou Reed-infused albu Anywhere I Lay My Head, a copy of New York, I Love You, which features her short directorial debut These Vagabond Shoes, a Daniel Clowes-signed screenplay for Ghost World, and a hand-painted Woody Allen/ScarJo tee.
While Johansson rocked the older demographic, Merida’s curly gingered frenzy took over the youth contingent with Brave. Of course, Disney is no slouch when it comes to marketing, and you can nab everything from an archery set and Merida dress to play sets for your wee tyke. But there’s a charm in going a little left of expectation for young and old fans alike. Merida got an Art Nouveau spin in the T-shirt/sticker design from Rachael Thomas (left), a full-scale costume for the American Girl doll line, and a tree ornament.
The feisty lass was quickly beloved for her mixture of wild ginger locks, engaging Kelly MacDonald accent, and Scottish flair, so one might consider a Merida-themed collection of unexpected and slightly crazy gifts – a Scottish dialect audiobook mixes well with some Highlands folklore, Robbie Burns poetry, kilts and Tim Minchin CD/DVD Ready for This, which includes his dangerously clever, ginger-themed missive “Prejudice.”
This has been a big year for archery, between Merida and Hawkeye, but the arrows first flew in 2012 thanks to Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Let’s not pay attention to the problematic tracker jacker toners and training like a Tribute. The most commercial tie-ins to the film seem almost gleeful in their absolute disregard for the themes of the film. But the fan creations are often quite sweet – little artifacts that subtly bring to mind the world of Panem, or artistically nod to the new Hollywood series.
The style of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book cover for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was applied to The Hunger Games by artist Greta Skagerlind, who turned Katniss’ sign of solidarity into arty movie poster. Katniss also appears as a retro movie poster silhouette, and in a rather unique tribute, hand-painted matryoshka or nesting dolls (right). The Mockingjay iconography appears obviously in jewelry like brass bracelets, and more subtly in simple necklaces with birds and arrows. Likewise, a Mockingjay cookie stamp eludes the distaste invoked by a cookbook themed on hunger games, and looks like a little symbol of rebellion.
Some of the best home-grown cinema appreciation pops up when Wes Anderson puts out a film, and this year’s retro whirlwind Moonrise Kingdom is no exception, with the director’s distinctive quirky aesthetic spawning countless art and DIY creations. Suzy’s beret-clad ensemble has inspired many a minimalist art print, like Afrancesado’s. The film is also overflowing with real-life props that could spark any number of charming Moonrise kits and make us wish for a time machine. Some are pre-curated, like Scout badge collections, modern film-inspired adventure gear, rooms inspired by the film, and a collection of essential items to become the adventurous Suzy. Likewise, one might want to nab Alizee Lafon’s “Moonrise Kingdom Kit” print and then replicate the poster with a yellow suitcase stuffed with the paraphernalia shown, and maybe the retro-catchy soundtrack.
Old and new will clash in the coming year as Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent evolves from animated devlishness to Angelina Jolie-led live action hijinx. It’s bittersweet – the thrill of the most kick-ass Disney villain leading a feature mixed with the wistfulness and appreciation of Eleanor Audley’s incomparably voiced animated terror. The first peek at the new incarnation of the villain already reveals changes to Maleficent’s look, which means now is the time to snap up old-school styles before the shelves are flooded with new spins – giclee prints, t-shirts, vinyl dolls, mugs and more. There are also many fan-inspired prints like this eerie spin on the horned villainess.
For every big production, there are also odds and ends that can be mixed and matched, including:
While it’s still so darned fashionable: The Feminist Ryan Gosling, in book form.
David Holmes’ soundtrack for Haywire is almost as excellent as Gina Carano’s ass-kicking Mallory Kane, and an essential accompaniment to the film.
Cloud film necklace, for those who appreciate the world before digital.
Since the wildly talented Brit Marling (of Another Earth and Sound of My Voice fame) has not hit superstardom quite yet (but it’s inevitable), signed photos are pretty darned affordable, as are cast-signed posters.
It’ll be a miracle if the Dragon Tattoo gets a full U.S. trilogy, but there’s always the Lisbeth Salander, aka Wasp, art print.
Author Lois Banner reveals more facets to Marilyn Monroe than most people know, including her covert intelligence in Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox.
Indie films usually don’t get as much fan appreciation, but Redbubble offers up a great print of Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg ladies.
For a brand-spanking-new gift, film writer Dina Gachman has written a collectible comic book for the late Elizabeth Taylor, with not a Lohan in sight.
And, well, she might be an increasingly small-screen figure, but Zooey Deschanel’s A Very She & Him Christmas album is still catchy.