Kinetic Cinema that Kicks Ass! Follow up to Marya Wethers’ “Bad Ass Babes” Program

At our last Kinetic Cinema screening on March 11th, guest curator Marya Wethers showed at a different side of the screendance spectrum than our usual experimental fare: Hollywood action films that feature powerful female leads kicking butt.

T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

The evening was arranged by character, with Marya giving background exposition about each woman and illustrating her points with key scenes from films. The characters featured in the program reflected Marya’s personal favorites, and weren’t meant to encompass the entire range and history of female characters in action films. Rather it was a personal tour of the ladies that have inspired Marya the most, and she made us all feel like we were sitting in her living room sifting through the best bits of her DVD collection.

Some of my favorites from the evening were:

Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) from The Matrix series.

Pure elegance punctuated with vulnerability. In the opening scene from The Matrix, Trinity seduces you with a slow motion leap, before giving you a sharp crack in the nose.

Trinitys Kick

Trinity's Kick

Lara Croft (Angelina Jolie) from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

The Bungee Ballet scene combines high adventure with silk pajamas. Gotta love Lara’s McGyver-like ingenuity, using her remote car starter to blind the enemies with a garage full of headlights while making a getaway on her motorcycle.

Laras bungee ballet workout gets interrupted.

Lara's bungee ballet workout gets interrupted.

T-X (Kristanna Loken) from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

She’s an advanced cybernetic organism from the future and she kicks Arnold’s ass!

The Angels (Drew Barrymore as Dylan Sanders, Cameron Diaz as Natalie Cook, and Lucy Liu as Alex Munday) from Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

These ladies take teamwork to a new level. When the lights go out they tap morse code on each other’s palms to communicate. They’re also not afraid to take a punch. You see them get seriously messed up, but no mind, they just spit out the blood, pull out the glass, and keep on kicking ass!

The Angels

The Angels

After the screening we had a discussion about some of the finer choreographic points of the films. One dance film-maker opined that the less successful clips were ones in which you couldn’t follow the movement all the way through. In the scenes in which the shots were mostly close-ups and fast cuts, it seemed to obfuscate the action of the fight, belying a lack of vision on the director’s part. Marya observed that many fight scenes will show a punch starting and then cut to a different angle at the moment of impact rather than showing the full movement. One of the most exciting clips of the night, a fight scene from Charlie’s Angels showed mostly shots of full-bodied action where you could see all the movements from start to finish. This style made the Charlie’s Angels’ scenes look more realistic than some of the others, even though they were still very cinematic and fantastical.

An interesting exercise would be to look at movies by their fight choreographers. Simon Crane was the stunt coordinator for both Lara Croft:Tomb Raider and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and I could see a similarity in these films, mainly in their approach to using elaborate sets. In each, the fighting really moved through space and created armaggedon-like paths of destruction in its wake. Yuen Wo Ping, Kung Fu choreographer of The Matrix also worked on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and I can see a throughline of elegance and fluidity in both those movies. Daxing Zhang, fight coordinator of Charlie’s Angels:Full Throttle is a famous Hong Kong actor/choreographer/producer. The creativity and freshness he brought to the scenes in Charlie’s Angels were really wonderful. Now I want to see more movies by all of these choreographers. I think I have a new Netflix queue forming!

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About annabradynuse

I am the Director of Movement Media at Pentacle. I publish Move the Frame, a blog about all things dance and film related. I am a dance film-maker, choreographer, and renaissance woman!
This entry was posted in Kinetic Cinema, pop culture, screenings/events, theory/criticism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Kinetic Cinema that Kicks Ass! Follow up to Marya Wethers’ “Bad Ass Babes” Program

  1. Doug Fox says:

    Anna, that was excellent program.

    Marya did great job.

    Charlie’s Angels was highlight because, as you wrote and we discussed at program, it really let you see the unfolding of the action. And there weren’t too many fragmented, close-up shots that distracted from the choreographed sequences.

  2. Christine Doempke says:

    whoop. I’m finding this a little late, but don’t forget Summer Glau, former ballerina turned into sci-fi ass-kicking darling:

    I can’t get enough of that girl!

  3. Christine Doempke says:

    woah. the making of is pretty cool too:

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