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Oct 21, 2017

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Chick Flicks
by Angelina Malhotra-Singh
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 3.5
Little City French Twist Montana Girls in Prison

The Gyno-American cinema movement would be nothing without women's movies of the nineties. From the all-Southern belle casts of Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias to the pistol-packin' edgies of Foxfire and Set It Off, women this decade have gone full-force in film fare. Sometimes the movies represent simple interests of the nation's 55 million teen moviegoers (most of whom preferred Horse Whisperer to Boogie Nights simply because of a miscast prosthesis). Other times, a good chick flick is, as in the case of last year's Nevada, a mere matter of sensible plot, strong writing and nice cinematography. Granted, Nevada had an all-star cast. But you don't need six headliners to offer more than derivative fluff such as She's All That or Home Fries. At its black lace-edged heart, an ideal chick flick offers intellectual stimulation, solidarity and, when done right, eye candy.

Little City

Any movie mogul will tell you that in order to be classified as a film for women, a movie must have one or more of the following ingredients: romance, Tom Cruise, ugly duckling girl, Tom Hanks, eventually requited love, Meg Ryan. Sometimes a chick flick sprinkles in a little action, as in Alicia Silverstone's painful directorial debut Excess Baggage (spoiled rich girl accidentally kidnapped by, and falls in love with, Benicio Del Toro); a little satire, as in My Boyfriend's Back (high school boy comes back as zombie in order to attend prom); or a little black comedy, as we all enjoyed in the brilliant incest-romance House of Yes (twin lovers discuss duck babies and mock Tori Spelling). More often than not, the audience must shed tears because they're moved (Menghella's Truly, Madly, Deeply) or because they wasted eight bucks (Winfrey's Beloved).

While recent femme fare, such as Sandra Bullock's Force of Nature (engaged boy meets freewheelin' babe and does the full monty) or Brendan Fraser's Blast From the Past (endearing kid raised in a bomb shelter emerges at age 35 and falls for Alicia Silverstone) may give it a run for its money, Never Been Kissed is easily this year's most-awaited chick flick. In Never, coproducer and star Drew Barrymore plays an undercover reporter who goes on assignment at a local high school. Problem is, Barrymore's character has always been a geek, so she looks to hip brother David Arquette to shepherd her through terrible crushes and awkward moments. Saturday Night Live's resident geek Molly Shannon, and Deep Impact's Leelee Sobieski round out the cast, but the draw is obviously Barrymore and her transformation from not-smooched to, well, you get the picture.

I once watched a twentysomething add Sweet'n Low to a perfectly nice chianti. Because of her, and other like-palated women, flicks for chicks will forever demand a sweet little white, something soft and blond and Ryan-esque, because you're going to need the sweetener for the post-movie coffee and dessert session, where you discuss what the movie really meant. Try the 1992 Domain Zind Humbrecht Riesling Rangen Clos Sain Urbain, or a round, fruity chardonnay such as the 1997 Estancia Pinnacles or the 1996 Bernardus. If you're just watching because it was your honey's turn to pick, make a blender-ful of yellow tomato gazpacho, add croutons and grab a grittier white, such as the 1997 Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc. Even the shuddersome, saccharine Hanks will roll off you.

Not to be confused with flicks for chicks, flicks about chicks often offer strong heroines or strong female casts -- and some of the same plot developments as standard chick flicks -- but usually provide a little something extra for the boys. Little City (boy-loses-girl, girl-finds-girl, girl-finds-other-girl, boy-falls-for-that-girl) had bed-hopping bisexual women; Separate Lives (Linda Hamilton as a psychology professor with a killer alter ego) had a bed-hopping schizophrenic; Jade (lusty wife-cum-shrink-cum-call girl who may or may not be vicious killer) had the bed-hopping Linda Fiorentino. Be warned that anything starring Emily Watson falls into this category, though the movie's advertising campaign will pretend otherwise: Breaking the Waves (paraplegic's wife prostitutes herself to make him feel better), for example, or Hilary and Jackie (man beds hot and gifted sisters -- with permission).

Recent video fare in this genre includes Jawbreaker (trio of babes, lighthearted murder and Marilyn Manson), Hurlyburly (someone finally chucks Meg Ryan out of a moving vehicle) and Sarah Michelle Geller's Dangerous Liaisons remake Cruel Intentions. Set among the evil and treacherous world of the ultra-rich teens of New York's Upper East Side, Cruel offers bed-hopping (of all sexual orientations), deflowering, cruel betting and all the usual fanfare with a scrumptious cast that includes Geller, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon and Selma Blair.

Jonesing for erotic women rather their Clearasil counterparts? Head for the classics shelf and pick up The Hunger. Catherine Denueve and Susan Sarandon are spooky, stylish, erotic and more than a little sick. This one's for the boys, so what you're drinking is a matter of who you're watching with. Bonding with your buds? Frat-boy food (no plates required) and a beerfest '99 with some of Pete's funky Wicked Summer Ales. If you're in the company of people who'll be looking for a plot in said film fare, pull out a big, macho red, such as a 1994 Guigal Cotes du Rhone or a 1996 Rosemount Estate McLaren Vale Shiraz.

Breaking Waves

The Hunger

French Twist

The Killing Time

Face it: women with accents are sexy. French, Italian, Japanese, Russian. Hell, even Frances McDormand's Nordic drawl in Fargo was alluring. Actresses with foreign accents are all babes, from Yau Ching in Naked Killer (woman seeks to avenge her father's death by learning all she can from a female assassin must track down killer of her lesbian lover) to Victoria Abril in French Twist (bored housewife moves her lover into the family home). Even though Michele Reis spends more time masturbating than talking in the experimental Hong Kong film Fallen Angels (girl falls for hit man, the two never speak), her guttural vowels are captivating. Need more proof? Elizabeth Hurley's shagadelic cadence made her Austin Powers character drool-worthy. And she's English!

Annihilating all recent competition is the British film Killing Time. Kendra Torgan, a Lara Flynn Boyle lookalike, plays Maria, an expensive assassin (who speaks only one line in English and the rest in her native Italian). Maria kisses some men on the forehead before killing them but otherwise shows little empathy for her victims. She goes through the movie quickly and efficiently killing men, but no one seems to notice because they're all stunned by her sexy Italian accent. Mon Dieu!

What do foreign women drink? Home-brew, 'cause they're a lot more patriotic than we are. You must follow suit: remember, you're enslaved by their accents. Toast Spanish mamis with a glass of 1994 Torres Vina Sol; salute Italianites with a toe-tingling chianti, such as Fonterutoli's 1996 Classico; give it up for the German amazons with anything from the C. Von Schubert winery, and give in to your Japanese mistress with a chilly bottle of Asahi. Surrender has never been so thirst-quenching.

From Melanie Griffith's killer teen in The Drowning Pool to the animated fighting teen of Mulan, ass-kicking chicks have all but invaded Hollywood. Certainly Renee Russo as the pregnant fighting cop in Lethal Weapon 4 (geriatric, multiracial cops fight mostly Asian bad guys) was a kick-ass chick, as was Kathleen Turner's undercover operative-turned-mommy in Undercover Blues (vacationing spy couple must stop old nemesis from blowing up world). Kate Blanchette's virgin queen in Elizabeth looks like she could conquer most nineties guys before breakfast, and of the random pool of four guys I surveyed, none would willingly work alongside the butcher knife-wielding Carol Kane in the straight-to-video Office Killer.

These days, even ringleted babes are baring their brawn. Kyra Sedgewick, best known as Kevin Bacon's wife and Tom Cruise's hippy dippy love interest in Born on the Fourth of July, shows her booty-bustin' chops in the recent Thelma and Louise-meets-Goodfellas film Montana. Blonde hitwoman Sedgwick is a tough-ass paid killer who must retrieve Robin Tunney, the boss's runaway mob moll. Sedgwick is eventually targeted by her own organization and her real strength comes out: She kills all the men, digs their graves, rescues Tunney again and, with a little help from her dying friend Stanley Tucci, heads out West for a new life.

Clearly you can't face an office psycho with a belly full of wine. I have a bottle of Maruba Therapy Viper Rum from Belize. The label reads "Warning: Courage. For Real Men Only." And there's a snake inside of it. Frankly, I'd rather face Kane. But tequila, they say, is a spine-stiffening tipple. (Whether the courage is faux or real is debatable.) Opt for a shot of Don Julio, or Tequila Lapiz, as long as it's 100 percent agave and smooth, because honey, you don't have time to mix up a margarita.



Mona Lisa

Oscar likes women of the night. To wit: nominations for Sharon Stone (Casino), Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite), Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas). Molly Haskell, who wrote From Reverence to Rape, calls Hollywood's fascination with prostitutes "hooker chic." According to Haskell, it's where male and female fantasies collide: where men get the women they think they want and women get to be bad, rebellious and sexy. Claptrap! What if the best parts for guys were gigolos and pimps? Would they be the men women want? Would male actors appreciate the chance to stretch their acting abilities by playing a whore? I think not.

Which isn't to say there isn't some view-worthy movie-making going on here. Reach back to 1986's Mona Lisa, a delightful movie about whores, pimps and unspeakable acts. In it, Cathy Tyson plays Simone, a (as co-star Bob Hoskins puts it) "tall, thin, black tart," with a sad, elegant, world-weary humanity that carries the depraved subject manner along swimmingly. Or check out Blush, an eloquent newish movie about Shanghainese prostitutes stripped of their vocation by the communist takeover. Re-education, factory jobs and nunneries make even cut-rate hooking look like loads of fun! Bonus: sexy accents.

Hookers drink Champagne, because someone else is paying. I recently tried a Taittinger Cuvee Prestige Rose, which had an interesting berry flavor. I just couldn't get past the pinky-tangerine color. If you, too, prefer your sparkling wine devoid of color, try a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Extra Dry, which has a great lemony odor, or a Sonoma Valley powerhouse, such as the Iron Horse 1993 Classic Vintage Brut.

Some genres just scream chick flick: anything involving mothers is by definition a movie with an ovarian overtone. The gamut runs from scary moms (Bloody Mama, Albino Alligator), to pseudo-moms (Dolores Claiborne, Sharon Stone's horrific remake of Gloria), to unwanted children (Secrets and Lies, Citizen Ruth, Alien), wacko moms (The Grifters, Children of the Revolution) and new-mom-old-mom conflicts (Stepmom). Michelle Pfeiffer's new mommy weeper flick The Deep End of the Ocean is about a woman whose three-year-old son disappears in a hotel lobby and is returned as a preteen: classic because-I'm-your-mother-dammit fare. Better still is Little Voice, in which Brenda Blethyn's mean, brassy slag of a stage mother is, curiously, a more sympathetic character than her preposterously withdrawn songbird daughter.

Yo' mama drinks sherry, or she should, a la Bette Davis. My Friend Alzo, a smashing cook whose umbilical cord remains attached, serves his very proper Spanish mother steamed shrimp with a glass of Hartley and Gibson Manzanilla (a delicate aged sherry) and insists this is de rigeur. If you want a sweeter, aperitif style sherry, Vinicola Hildalgo's Napoleon Cream Sherry is dessert is a glass -- tastes and smells of almonds, raisins and maple syrup.

I Want to Live

Girls in Prison

From Caged Heat (Roger Corman's cult-status cellblock Cinderella story) to Chained Heat II (Sylvester Stallone's sadistic ex-wife plays lesbian prison warden), the genre most populated with pulchritudinous females has always been that of women behind bars. Sure, Hollywood manages the occasional serious turn. Try 1958's Oscar-winning I Want to Live!, a true-life tale about a hooker framed for murder and sentenced to death. But most of the fare runs along the lines of Ilsa the Wicked Warden (third in a series of seventies films about the exploits of Ilsa the Torturer).

Pam Grier's 1971 blaxploitation film The Big Doll House (wrongly accused woman sent to penal colony run by sadistic lesbian warden) is among the best of the lot, but the new Anne Heche release, Girls in Prison, is stiff competition for the Schlock America crown. Purporting to be a modern film noir, Girls features Heche as a wanton and conniving slut who frames a young female songwriter for murder. The girl meets up with fellow prisoner Ione Skye (of Say Anything and Beastie wife fame), her lover (African American actress Bahni Turpin) and a host of new social arrangements (cat fights, lesbian sex, sadistic inmates and that slutty Heche).

I recently read about a group of inmates in the Midwest who stole sacks of sugar from the prison pantry and tried to brew wine in the toilet. If you have a bottle of loo vintage in your cellar, this is probably an appropriate time to unscrew the top. Otherwise, put some cheese and olives on a platter and enjoy a bottle of 1996 Columbia Crest Merlot or a 1997 St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc or the tasty and cutely named 1995 Ro bert Pepi Two Heart Canopy Sangiovese. Sit back and shake your head over the sexploitation.

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