I went to Florida to visit my parents for Christmas and we watched three movies on their streaming services.
First, we watched the original Netflix movie Dumplin’. Jennifer Aniston and Dolly Parton produced the movie. Aniston also stars as the mom, a former beauty queen who continues to run the beauty pageant in the town where she grew up. Parton’s music plays a big role in the plot and is, in my opinion, the best part of the movie. This is a story that is supposed to make us feel good because the plus-size daughter proves to her mom that you don’t have to be thin or traditionally attractive to be a beauty queen. The movie isn’t bad. But I wouldn’t say it’s particularly good either.
We then watched Downsizing which was a movie that I really wanted to see when the trailer first came out. But the reviews were horrible so I saw other movies in the theater instead. I’m glad I finally saw the movie, not because it’s particularly good but because I can see now why the reviews were so bad. I still find the premise really intriguing. A scientist invents a way to miniaturize living materials. Because humans are destroying the earth and using up all the natural resources, some people believe that the only way to save the earth and humankind is to miniaturize humans. Matt Damon’s character and his wife decide to go through with the procedure but his wife backs out at the last minute. The majority of the movie is about Damon’s character dealing with the aftermath of his divorce in his new downsized state. The movie moves to some interesting territory when Damon’s character encounters an activist who was downsized against her will. But the movie doesn’t have the courage to truly explore the social justice issues that it raises. This could have been a great movie.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story ☆☆☆☆
Finally, we watched the documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, which I loved. Hedy Lamarr was a Austrian actress who first gained attention in her native country as a teenager by appearing nude in the movie Ecstasy in 1933. She eventually came to Hollywood and became a star in the United States. She found being a movie star boring and so in her spare time, she invented things. One of her inventions was a method of frequency hopping so that torpedoes in World War II could be radio-controlled without fear of the enemy jamming the control signal. The US government didn’t see the value of the idea at the time but took control of the patent anyway. They ended up using it in the 1950s without Lamarr’s knowledge and so she was never paid a dime for her invention. This idea is what makes all of our modern wireless technology possible. The documentary shows that she was credited with the invention later in her life but only after she had undergone so much plastic surgery (much of which she invented!) that she didn’t feel comfortable being seen in public. Lamarr’s last interview, which was hours long, is highlighted in the documentary and she is quite candid about her feelings on a number of issues. I found this story fascinating and sad but well worth watching.
I am currently Professor of Digital Media at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, NH. I am also the current Coordinator of General Education at the University. I am interested in game studies, digital literacies, open pedagogies, and generally how technology impacts our culture.