Girl power movies are a dime a dozen. From feel-good tween movies to women asserting themselves in the workplace, cinemas have been toying with the sub-genre for decades. But never has it reached such heights of perfection as in Ridley Scott’s (yep, still shocks me that he’s the helmer here) Thelma & Louise, the oft-homaged and endlessly entertaining adventures of two women who’ve had enough of being pushed around by men. The cross-country adventure brings our two lovable outlaws to the edge of the desert, and Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis prove incredibly capable of endearing us to the hard-on-her-luck waitress and the good-time girl looking for a way out of her loveless marriage. Sarandon is even and solid as a rock as the brains of the operation, while Davis is gleefully insane in her party girl habits – both ladies more than deserved their Lead Actress nods that year. And thanks to one memorable final moment, the movie will go down as one of the treasurers of the ’90s.
The real crime when it comes to this movie is that up until a few years ago, I’d never seen it. Chalk it up to semi-creepy trailers and overall darkness that kept me from seeing it as a child. As it turns out, it really is all it’s cracked up to be. In the era where Tim Burton was known for his imagination and creativity (as opposed to cha-ching bombast and obsession with the Depp/Bonham Carter combo), this bizarre and freaky musical brought the instrumental (and surprisingly) voice talents of Danny Elfman to the forefront, showcasing the story of Jack Skellington, a hopeless dreamer who discovers there are other holidays outside of Halloween. The stop motion is phenomenal and ugly-pretty, with kooky characters that couldn’t be matched until 2009’s Coraline. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the wonderful Catherine O’Hara plays love interest Sally, who’s made up of the parts of cadavers. The music is supremely catchy, from the bouncy “What’s This” to the jazzy “Oogie Boogie Song” to the somber “Jack’s Lament.” It’s strange, unmatched and a holiday classic.
Arguably one of Meryl’s all-time best performances (and we all know that’s saying something) she’s a pleasure to watch free of accents and gimmicks (though I do occasionally love me the gimmicks and always love me the accents, it’s nice to see she can carry a film without the extras). Playing Karen Silkwood, the mulleted blue-collar type who sees mishandling within her company, in which workers are exposed to toxic levels of radiation. The film sounds like the type of biopic that would get Oscar voters into rah-rah mode in the aughts, but it’s far from a traditional inspirogram. Karen is mouthy and on occasion crass, and we’re not meant to find her saintly. She macks on her co-worker boyfriend (Kurt Russell) without hesitation and lives with her no-nonsense lesbian roommate (Cher), engaging in alcohol-guzzling and debauchery as desired. So as Miss Mae West may or may not have put it, she’s no angel. But her struggle with the man is so compelling and so disturbing (and the cinematography is more incredible than it needs to be) you feel like Silkwood is your buddy, your pal, and your advocate.
At the time I must admit I was slightly ashamed of my love for this movie. But since Aardman has more than proven itself as a viable and reliable studio, I will unabashedly say, I love this movie! From the brilliantly animated bottom heavy chickens, to the devious performance from Miranda Richardson as the ominous Mrs. Tweedy, to the simple goofball laughs it provides viewers young and old, The Great Escape meets Wallace & Gromit proved a successful outing. It didn’t hurt that Julia Sawalha, fresh off of (well, okay five years later, but whatever) the greatest miniseries of all time (playing giggling “silly girl” Lydia in Pride & Prejudice) took the starring role as trusty Ginger whose goal of escaping the clutches of Tweedy Farm for greener pastures paired with the accidental con-bird Rocky Roads (voiced by a pre-crazy Mel Gibson) and his notions of chickens flying. Add to that the fantastic and whimsical claymation and the jaunty score from DreamWorks mainstay John Powell (that kazoo chorus always makes me chuckle), and you’ve got yourself an ageless romp that still looks good by today’s standards 11 years later.