Because I’m not just a cross-cultural meta-critic but also an assistant buyer in juniors’ activewear, I can explain precisely why The Avengers is such a terrific movie: It’s all about the accessories. Thor, who’s played by that Aussie Viking Chris Hemsworth, smashes bad guys with his magic hammer, as if it were a Birkin packed with bricks. Chris always looks the teensiest bit embarrassed by this, as if he’s holding his wife’s hammer while she’s browsing. Chris Evans, who’s the strong-jawed – in fact, the strong-everythinged – Captain America, has fiddled with his stars-and-stripes spandex for a patchwork, Etsy feeling, but he still protects himself with his round bulletproof shield, which looks like it could also be used to pass hors d’oeuvres at a Fourth of July barbecue. As Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. slips into the world’s most all-powerful outfit, as if it were a jet-propelled, rocket-launching Chanel suit, and the green-skinned Hulk, as played by the adorably dweeby Mark Ruffalo, is pure makeover, switching from rumpled khakis to what the Fashion Police on E! refer to as a pop of color.
While I love all these guys, my two favorites are Jeremy Renner’s sleek Hawkeye, with his virtually infinite supply of deadly sharpshooter arrows, and especially Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. I wasn’t familiar with Scarlett’s character, but Google informed me that she’s a genetically enhanced Soviet ultra-spy, and that she’s also a ballerina who occasionally works undercover as a schoolteacher named Nancy Rushman. If all of this wasn’t wonderful enough, Black Widow also gets to wear a formfitting Britney Spears black catsuit, and Scarlett makes being ridiculously sexy into the most desirable superpower of all. The Avengers is especially great when the stars get to work together, sniping at each other while they save Earth from interplanetary warriors. The final showdown destroys most of midtown Manhattan, with a focus on a particular outdoor café, as if the evil aliens are targeting brunch.
In another ensemble film, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, I didn’t know which was harder to believe: that Cameron Diaz was supposed to be pregnant or that Jennifer Lopez was supposed to have a job. Jennifer and Cameron are both beyond gorgeous, but they seem to have been molded from vats of tinted moisturizer, every known Pantene product, and whatever’s in those Silestone quartz countertops. They’re like the glowing light that the cast of Desperate Housewives would see just before they die.
The movie is one of those star-packed romps like Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve, except it uses pregnancy to link the story lines instead of a holiday, and whenever there’s a lull, a character will say either “pee” or “vagina.” The movie keeps cutting between five different couples, which makes it feel really long, as if the women are pregnant for decades, and I kept waiting for the final montage in which everyone simultaneously gives birth, mostly to spotlessly clean 6-month-old infants – why couldn’t someone have just popped out Zac Efron in a diaper? Sometimes the movie is funny, but there’s plenty of chitchat about miracles and family, and even when there’s a miscarriage, it’s really quick and accompanied by a lonely piano ballad. Jennifer and her hunky husband adopt a baby, and I’m telling you, their trip to Ethiopia is shot to look like a sunlit tour of the Napa Valley, as if they’ve signed up for a baby tasting, and when Jennifer, in a halter dress, an armload of bracelets, and major eyelashes, clutches her new son I wanted her to murmur, “I’m going to name him Gallo Montrachet.”
Jennifer’s character is a baby photographer, which is one of those nonthreatening women’s movie careers, like being a wedding planner or starting your own cupcake business. I could tell when Jennifer was depressed or when her marriage was in trouble because she’d wear her hair up, and she reveals that once, in a reckless moment, she got a tattoo of a dolphin on her shoulder, as if she were joining a gang called the Little Mermaids. Cameron plays a TV fitness guru, which should be fun, but her increasingly large plastic bellies look like a new line of Tupperware, and it was way more entertaining to watch Mariah Carey when she was really pregnant and still hawking her jewelry collection on the Home Shopping Network.
With newborns on my mind, I recently scanned the 2012 list of the most popular baby names, and it includes the Twilight-inspired Isabella and Jacob. If I ever have another child, maybe I’ll name him Thor Gelman-Waxner, because then no one would dare bully him, if you ask me.
In addition to her monthly column in Entertainment Weekly, LGW is taking your burning questions here in PopWatch. Tap the “Ask Libby!” button to submit, then check back soon for her next online post.