I didn’t go to the movies for over a year, and now that I feel comfortable going again, I can’t stop going. The overpriced popcorn and Coca-Cola combination, the seventies patterned carpet, the conversations in the bathrooms after too many gasps and murmurs in the theater itself. It’s an aroma of pleasure.
I recently saw both Dune and Last Night in Soho, starring some of my favorite actors and actresses. When Timothee Chalamet first appeared on the screen in Dune, my friends and I quietly but audibly sucked in our breath, and the man next to us said, in his girliest voice, He’s soooo cute, isn’t he? as if we didn’t have the same reaction to the murderous Anya Taylor Joy in Last Night in Soho.
I swore that Last Night in Soho was directed by a woman. But, it wasn’t. The main reason I thought it was stemmed from one of the final scenes, where all the dead, faceless rapists were begging Eloise to kill Sandy. For a moment, it felt like she was going to, because Sandy was planning on killing her for knowing her secrets. But, Eloise tells the men, the voices of them, that she won’t kill Sandy. I feel like most men would have directed Eloise to kill Sandy, to be the new heroine killer we can objectify, but they didn’t do that. And so I assumed, this film must’ve been directed by a woman.
And yet this reminds me of Margaret Atwood’s take on male fantasies. How even if we think we aren’t in one, that that’s a male fantasy in itself.
Only 10% of directors in Hollywood are women. And when you Google “transgender directors in Hollywood” a solid percentage or number doesn’t even come up. The same thing happens when you Google “women of color directors in Hollywood”.
Last Night In Soho is a fabulous representation of romanticizing the past and nostalgia, while also navigating life with mental illness.
Dune, on the other hand, is a completely different genre. Many people know the film is an adaption of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi series, beginning in the mid-’60s, of imperial forces controlling future space worlds. Viewers of the film may interpret it as another Star Wars movie of colonizers, and that’s exactly what it is supposed to be.
I’ve always been one of those audience members who likes pretty much every movie I’ve ever seen. But after being exposed to cinematic scholarship and things like feminist, queer, and critical race theory, I see more than just pretty cinematography behind the screen, which is both rewarding and unfulfilling. Sometimes I wish I could be an arrogant viewer, enjoying iconic lines in films, but we must look beyond voyeuristic pleasure, as we internalize the messages we receive from what we consume.
Dune and Last Night in Soho were both aesthetically pleasing as well as meaningful cinematic experiences. While both films are deserving of praise, they are also deserving of criticism. Yes, I love a good large popcorn with extra butter, but I also love the representation of mental illness on screen, justice in the worlds of others, and reimagined futures and realities. Both of these films offer something for everyone to take home with them to consider, besides popcorn crumbs crunching underneath their shoes.