Archive for November, 2010

Holy Smoke!

Starring: Kate Winslet, Harvey Keitel

Release Year: 1999

McCain Library Call #: DVD 2073

Quick Rating: WATCH IT!

Co-written and directed by Jane Campion (The Piano), Holy Smoke! tells the story of Ruth Barron (Kate Winslet), an Australian girl who goes on vacation in India only to come home a sari-wearing follower of a Hindu mystic named Baba. Ruth’s parents feel that she has been brainwashed, so they hire an exit counselor–someone trained to help people get out of cult religions. P.J. Waters (Harvey Keitel), the brash American counselor they hire promises that after three days Ruth will no longer want to return to India to group marry Baba. However, what P.J. doesn’t know is that Ruth isn’t like his other cases.

The bulk of the film follows P.J. and Ruth’s three days together in a secluded treatment bungalow in the middle of the Outback. By the end of the three days, P.J. hasn’t been able to make Ruth believe she’s been brainwashed. Instead, the power dynamic makes a sharp 180, and instead of P.J. mandating the terms of Ruth’s house arrest, Ruth takes control of P.J. by manipulating him sexually.

I love Campion’s film for several reasons. The cinematography of the film is colorful and bold, reflecting the high stakes situation between the two characters. The film is very much actor-driven, and the character development is captivating. Both characters have a vice: Ruth is selfish and P.J. is a womanizer. In the third act of the film especially, the two leads clash horns, and the film becomes less about curing Ruth’s spiritual state and more about curing them both of their worst quality. Additionally, the film takes a rather progressive stance on gender-bending and subverting the typical formula for what makes women sexy in Hollywood by making Ruth a realistic woman.

Vivacious, thought-provoking, and very much a product of 90’s feminism, Holy Smoke! asks us to think about what we believe, and questions how strongly we believe it.


Welcome to Cinema Science!

Hey Scotties!

Come on. You know you do it. Friday afternoon rolls around, and you make a trip to McCain Library before it closes to hit the DVD section. Another long and tiring week at Agnes Scott College is over–the history paper was due, the astronomy lab lasted forever, that club meeting…and a weekend of homework is about to begin. Studying? Ha. Maybe after you get a chance to unwind, right?

But navigating McCain’s collection of DVDs (and yes, even VHS if you’re in to that sort of thing) can be tricky. There’s so much to choose from, and shelf upon shelf of shiny, appealing covers stare back at you. Drama? Rom Com? Foreign? Indie? Horror? Thriller? Art House? Documentary? Maybe it’s movie night with your friends. Maybe it’s date night. Maybe it’s just a night in with yourself. Great, but what to watch?

Some students go in with a plan, knowing exactly what they want to check out. Others comb back and forth across the shelves, waiting for divine intervention to suggest the perfect film. As a senior at Agnes Scott, and a cinephile, I’ve gotten to know those shelves quite well. In fact, I’m such a connoisseur of McCain’s film collection, that I’m dedicating this blog to helping you (yes you!) find the perfect film for any occasion. I’ll tell you which films in McCain are worth watching, and which ones should be thrown into next year’s Black Cat bonfire.

Happy viewing, and check back regularly for new film reviews!


Sylvia Silverscreen

Class of 2011