Category Archives: movies

Censureship, Myself & Ender’s Game

Pieces of this post have been sitting on my computer since the summer so with the movie coming out I decided to fix it up and post it in the hopes of getting  my blogging back on track

So the film “Ender’s Game” based on the book of the same name by Orson Scott Card is coming out soon. I’m not here to talk about the many issues with Orson Scott Card, his political views are well-known and written by his own hand in most cases.  What I wanted to talk about is my own relationship with Ender’s Game and this new trend I’ve been seeing where people who choose to blacklist a film/show are accused of censorship.

I have a long and complex relationship with “Ender’s Game” both the book and the film, so my feeling on it are more complicated and gray than my feelings for OSC. I read EG at the right age, the perfect age, the age where I felt like no one understood me, adults were ineffectual against my harassers and I had a lot of anger inside that I wanted to get out somehow. I identified with Ender, his struggles and isolation but it was the character of his sister Valentine Wiggins that I left the book loving. The character of Valentine showed me the difference between pacifism and weakness. Ender changes the world through violence and ignorance but Valentine changes it through her words, through arguments meant to sway public opinion. Valentine was the first capitol-A  Academic I read about, the one I’ve probably spent a lot of my life trying to be. When you feel that close to a character you want to see them brought to life, want to see more of them. Also the fact that Valentine is being played by Abigail Breslin, on of my favorite young actresses leaves me hopeful for a great portrayal.

And the casting is another reason I want to see it. Viola Davis is in it. I love Viola Davis and have been truly disappointed in the work she’s been offered post-Help (the less said of her magical negro servant who sacrifices everything for her young white charge in “Beautiful Creatures” the better, looks it’s The Help with magic!). Nowhere has the racism of Hollywood been more blatant lately than the post-Oscars careers of Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis and the roles they’ve been offered.. Generally an Academy Award nomination (let alone a win) results in an avalanche of offers for the actors. Spencer has talked about how this definitely wasn’t the case for her though she’s taken an excellent view of it, acknowledging the disparity of Hollywood while planning ahead:

Well, it must have started ringing at some point, because you have some pretty great projects coming up, like Diablo Cody’s movie and Snow Piercer.
Well, the funny is thing is that I got the Diablo Cody movie and I got Snow Piercer before I got any nominations, so I knew I had both of those projects in November. I don’t want to sound as if [I’m complaining]. The reality is that there are so few roles out there for women and for women of color, and I’m a character actor, this I know. And I’m getting to see more of the roles that are out there, but there aren’t many. And zilch have been studio movies. Zilch. So my challenge and my opportunity now is to take the opportunity to create my own work. I’m fine with that.

In addition to these reasons people will argue that you have to give Science Fiction films your money so that Hollywood knows that SF/F sells and therefore makes more movies. I understand this argument, it was the one I made for the super-insanely disappointing movie “Sucker Punch”. It looked campy and great in the trailer and was the first women-headed film that production company had done in seven years so I wanted it to make money. Despite the ineptness and horrible stereotypes of it’s script I wanted it to succeed just so Hollywood Execs would not be able to say, “See movies with female leads don’t make any money let’s not do it again.”

And I want Hollywood to make more science fiction films. I want them to make more diverse science fiction films (which speaking of Octavia Spencer I am so hyped for her sf/f outing Snowpiercer!). I don’t, however, want them to give OSC my money. I don’t want them to think that OSC films are the way to go. The very last thing we need is a “Prentice Allen” TV series or a “Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus” movie or his homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” – the miniseries.

Ultimately the fact is that no one can predict how Hollywood will view the success or failure of something. Executives are not a conglomerate, they are individual people with their own minds, they have their own prejudices and assumptions and that effects how they perceive something. If they took every success as proof of the American public’s wants/needs ‘Alien’ would have been followed by a slew of tough, amazing protagonists in SF/F films who just happen to be women (we got a few, I’m looking at you Linda Hamilton but far from a slew). The success of Grey’s Anatomy would have lead to a slew of TV shows that had a diverse cast and a writing room that was mostly women. How many shows last 10 years?

The fact is that Hollywood takes the success of things that they champion as proof that the people want it, while things they are unsure of/don’t want to think about/deal with/make more of are called flukes whenever they succeed.

So what really cemented my decision not to pay to see this film?

The response  coming from OSC and his rabid supporters. First there’s his horribly demeaning and condescending letter:

“Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984. With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state. Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.” — Orson Scott Card.

Ok let’s break the outrage down to it’s component parts, shall we?

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

First of all, to act like there weren’t already LGBT folks advocating for rights back then is disingenuous at best, ignorant at worse. His homophobic masterpiece “The Songmaster” was written in 1980 so his views were already well established then and he was authoring his homophobic columns by 1990. So at least personally he was fully aware such issues exists during the length of the 80s. But the most horrible thing about this line to me, is that it shows OSC lack of imagination. Yes, it was written in 1984 and as a sf/f author you should be able to imagine the future of our world that reacts to real life issues. The fact that your future includes no GLBT folks says a lot about you and nothing about the time it was written. Especially since you have authors at the same damn time coming out with groundbreaking pieces that explored gender, race, class, sexuality, ability and a whole slew of other identities in wholly new ways.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Again I call bullshit. Legal protections have never ended a debate or discrimination in this country, yes they allow for more rights under the law but marginalized people have always known that the laws are applied unevenly. We know that just because a law says were equal doesn’t mean we won’t be hurt/killed/denied our rights. Also we know for a fact that just because something is law doesn’t mean people will follow or acknowledge it. For a recent example look at the ACA and the recent gov’t shutdown.

And the last bit of ridiculousness:

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

This is the most offensive bit of the whole thing. First of all it recast GLBT folks as intolerant of those with different opinions. Leaving aside the straw man argument that OSC sets up here, explain to me why I have to show tolerance towards someone who never showed it to folks like me? See I’m not intolerant of your opinion in general but when your opinions are on MY RIGHTS which have shit all to do with your life then you’re damn right I’m gonna hold it against you. So basically you spent all this money to deny me rights, wrote columns on how I and people like me are the downfall of society and used to sit on the board of an organization explicitly set up to deny me rights (National Organization for Marriage, he resigned in mid-2013 right when controversy for his film and opinions were heating up, fancy that) and keep me a second class citizen but I’m the one who needs to show tolerance for you OSC? By giving you my hard earned money?

Which leads us to the fans who somehow champion the idea that by not going to see his movie and encouraging others to do the same I am somehow silencing him and his voice. I’ve seen this entitlement in fans a lot, for some reason they will argue that choosing how you want to spend your money and sharing that with others is censorship.

Let me be clear I have NO power in Hollywood. I cannot stop a film from being made. I cannot change the story to suit my ideals. I can’t whiten a character or change their gender. I have no power over the media, what I do have power over is what I choose to give money to. Choosing not to give OSC my money is not silencing him in any way, I am not telling him that he cannot hold his opinions, write his book, write his homophobic columns; what I am saying is that I refuse to give him any more money or social cache by contributing to your movie being a success. That is the only power I have in light of the Hollywood machine.

That is not silencing people, silencing people with money and power is what NOM  did with the money and cache OSC  provided for them. Also even if he’s no longer on the board I don’t trust he still won’t give them his time, money and attention. Am I punishing him for his opinion? No. I’m choosing not to participate in a system that would end up with putting money in his pocket.

I still want to see Abigail Breslin & Viola Davis though. Maybe I’ll stick with my initial plan of paying for a film, something featuring GLBT folks and women of color, something I think should get more money/press/billing and then sneak into “Ender’s Game”.

It’s still voting with your wallet but in a cheating, sneaky way – it’s like rigging the election with your wallet. It’s the capitalist American way.

Oh Conan Yes!: Defending the new movie

Went and saw the new Conan movie last night and it was amazing!

Okay so number one a lot of people have been calling the Schwarzenegger movie a classic and “How could they redo it?” and on and on and on. So let me just say I own the first movie on DVD along with Red Sonja. So don’t try to bullshit me into this world where the original Conan is some amazing bit of film. It is camp, high camp (as if any movie with Arnold could be anything but) and not even James Earl Jones turns it into some amazing bit of art. And if I’m remembering correctly everyone dies in that version, Conan comes out the other side but not many other allies survive. Nostalgia can be a powerful thing and I like the original film but come on.

Now on to the new film. Will contain spoilers:

Continue reading

Why I Hate Brokeback Mountain…

So this is a post that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for a long time (years and years) and since I’m making the attempt to get back into blogging regularly I figured I’d pull it out of the back of my mind and shove it onto the blog.

I hate Brokeback Mountain.

This has nothing to do with it being a queer movie. It has to do with the fact that the narrative around Brokeback Mountain has been one of love and railing against the unfairness of a heterosexual world. The tragedy of it all, the romance of it all.

The infidelity of it all.

My main issue around this is the fact that if you had two men of color, especially black men, engaging in a clandestine affair with one another to the ignorance of their wives? I doubt there is any way in hell it would be called a romantic movie at all. It would have been called a movie about folks on the down low. The commentary would have been dissected on Oprah and in the media as a betrayal of women, as the reason that HIV is so prominent in the African-American community and a whole host of things that men on the down low get accused of all the time.

But somehow in this instance it’s become this ultimate romantic movie with this horrible tragic ending. The characters of the wives are rarely brought up in discussion, when most people discuss the film the fact that the characters are married is barely touched upon in terms of betrayal. It’s discussed in terms of the way that they are trapped by an unfeeling society and expectations.

Perhaps as men on the down low are? Trapped by fear of rejection and ignorance of their existence not to mention a dollop of self-hatred. Yet somehow the cute white boys are a tragic love story while the millions of men who are involved in down low culture are vilified.

This isn’t a defense of being on the down low. I don’t agree with keeping relationships secret when they may effect other relationships whether that be physical or emotional. My issue is the way that the framing of this movie has happened.

As a love story I believe the movie fails. As a commentary on the different ways we view sexuality when it’s tied to race it says a whole lot.

If you want a good movie about being gay in America that deals with race and family expectations and is even directed by Ang Lee try The Wedding Banquet.

P.S. – I could also bring up the fact that I think that in the original short story two of the characters (including one of the main pair) are actually latino. Not so in the movie

P.P.S. – The Wild West has always had a very large queer undercurrent and this was not the wild west even it was 1970’s Montana where people were at the time living openly as gay couples. Yes, even in Montana.

For Colored Girls…But Not Really

Now I’ll fully admit that I have watched some Tyler Perry movies in the past and even enjoyed one or two. There’s a lot to discuss about Perry most especially the way women tend to be portrayed in his work. Strong but unable to be so if they continue to be single. It’s like the law of Tyler Perry movies a female character cannot just leave her abusive/mean/dismissive/boring husband or boyfriend unless there’s another man already lined up for her to lean on. There’s also the added facet that all of these women go from “professional” men to “working class” men which adds a whole class aspect to his work. The men always marry up and the women always marry down in terms of socio-economic level. And this isn’t saying that that is not a valid story for some folks but it’s less the individual movies I have a problem with as much as the overall thematic pattern of his work. The only woman allowed to be angry and strong consistently in his work is himself dressed as Madea, which is a whole essay on its own. We could also talk about the fact that those who starred in his original plays and happen to be plus size and black never make the transition to screen unless its in the background, there’s not even talk about the originators of the roles being cast which is interesting considering the to do that’s happened around other transitions like Rent and such but again point for another time that none the less informs a lot of the things that bother me about him and his portrayal of women of color.

So I was understandably nervous when he bought the rights to Ntozake Shange’s amazing choreopoem For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf which is an amazing work from the perspective of eight  black women only known  by the titles: Lady in Red, Lady in Orange, Lady in Yellow,…Green, …Blue, …White, …Brown and …Black. It’s one of the most moving pieces I’ve ever read period. It interrogates the perspective of black women as they fall in love, deal with abuse, raise their children, confront their secrets, work, dance and just live their lives. It’s nuanced. It’s moving. It’s smart. It’s beautiful. These are not words I really connect to Tyler Perry or his work.

The fact that originally Nzingha Stewart was supposed to direct the film before he used his connections to snatch the film from her already did not make me a fan of  him. When it was announced that he was considering Beyonce for one of the roles I was too through. Then as things started to come together in terms of the cast I had hope: Janet Jackson (who lest people forget started in acting – Good Times, Fame and Poetic Justice), Whoopi Goldberg, Thandie Newton, Anika Noni Rose, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Tessa Thompson and more. These are all actresses I’m a huge fan of and began to balance out the presence of Tyler Perry. I also learned that rather than writing the screenplay himself he was using the the screenplay that Nzingha Stewart wrote when she was still in charge of the film which IMDb and various sources confirm. Another point in the movies favor.

And as I was watching the trailer I actually was interested.

(WordPress would not let me embed the video of the trailer, go here to watch it.)

Until the whole video ended with this:

“Written For The Screen, Produced and Directed
By Tyler Perry”

WTF? So not only did Perry snatch the film itself from Stewart but he’s taking credit for her work. Now if it turns out that what I’ve heard and IMDB is reporting is wrong then I’ll take this back but as of now I hate Tyler Perry. What a move to make? To take a story about black women’s experiences written by  a black woman, steal it from a black female director (of which there are few enough as it is) and then take credit for her work. Methinks you actually need to read some of the original work you’re adapting:

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff

somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff 
not my poems or a dance i gave up in the street
 but somebody almost walked off wid alla my stuff

like a kleptomaniac workin hard & forgettin while stealin
 this is mine/this aint yr stuff/
now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self

somebody almost walked off wit alla my stuff 
& didn’t care enuf to send a note home sayin 
i was late for my solo conversation
 or two sizes to small for my own tacky skirts

link to the entire piece

We could also have a conversation about the shortening of the name, erasing a lot of the context in terms of the lives being portrayed, but that’s a post for another time.

Why do they keep letting M. Night make movies?

So I’ve talked about the whitewashing of films before on this blog and about The Last Airbender specifically. I’m especially bitter about this whitewashing because I’m so in love with the source material and by shifted something so important about the protagonists identity (and also the fact that they’re surrounded by POC as if their whiteness just dropped from the sky and that the only POC in the film are the F*&KING villains!) seems like nothing less than pissing on the fans of the original cartoon. An aside – all 3 seasons of the show are up on Netflix watch instantly so if you have it check it out.

Imagine my joy when the reviews for the movie started to come in. There was a struggle to find someone who would give it two stars. Now that’s pretty bad. Roger Ebert opened his review of the film with:

“The Last Airbender” is an agonizing experience in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented. The laws of chance suggest that something should have gone right. Not here. It puts a nail in the coffin of low-rent 3D, but it will need a lot more coffins than that.

Oooooh BURN! He gave the film half a star.

And in one of the funniest reviews I’ve read in a long-time, maybe ever, Charlie Anders over at io9.com has a lot to say about it but my favorite part is probably:

This is the part where I would insert a quick plot synopsis of the film, but it’s really unnecessary – Shyamalan has boiled every epic heroic story of the past 20 years down to its most basic, primal soup-y essence, so he can spray it all over the audience, in a kind of Hero’s-Journey bukkake. You will be finding chunks of Joseph Campbell’s calcified spooge behind your ears for three days after watching this film, no matter how many times you bathe.

And it goes on from there, love it!

So all these bad reviews and such led me to ask the most confusing question in the universe. Why is M. Night Shyamalan allowed to still make movies?

The Sixth Sense was a one-shot wonder, once you know the twist the movie’s not nearly as interesting or groundbreaking. In fact it sort of stretches out it’s one gag into this hour long angstfest when it could have been a short film of 20-30 minutes.

Unbreakable is actually what I consider his best film, a very interesting look at the whole superhero mythos.

Signs is kinda meh and predictable.

The Village made me want to punch him in the face! It wasn’t a twist ending so much as withholding information from the audience and keeping them ignorant until the last minute. Also if I’m promised monsters? You damn sure better give me some monsters!

Lady In The Water

The Happening just made me go: Really? REALLY? Aren’t you just ripping off The Day of the Triffids but with less of the making sense?

And here’s the thing I’m not alone in this thinking. Most of Shyamalan’s post-Sixth Sense work has received pretty lackluster reviews so why is he allowed to keep making movies? I’m not asking this to be mean I’m actually really intrigued by this. In a business that will kick you to the curb for one “meh” film and start giving you lower and lower budgets why does he constantly get to make these big-budget movies? Does he have dirt on all the studio heads? Has he kidnapped their families and now has them suspended over vats of acid?

He’s like Uwe Boll, he just will not go away. And actually I can handle Uwe Boll and his horrible game-based films quite a bit better because they’re not supposed to be staggering works of amazingness. They’re just a fun, popcorn fare and even if they fail on that level I never leave a Boll film feeling bamboozled, I know what I’m getting into but society conspires to make us think Shyamalan’s a genius and I just can’t see it.

And I’m not even gonna respond to most of Shyamalan’s ridiculous defense of his whitewashing of The Last Airbender except to say (1) No Mr. Shyamalan we all realize you’re a Person of Color that actually makes it WORSE and (2) having a bunch of POC in the background or as villains does not make your film diverse, it’s the same bullshit Hollywood has always pulled, they are happy to have us as long as we’re silent or showing our evil ways.

Seth Rogan, I Hate You.

So in my post about Adventureland ( “We Don’t Get This” ) there were some comments in the post itself and also in the comments between Kate and I that might have implied that I dislike Seth Rogan. At the time I was talking about Seth Rogan as one of the people that defines a certain genre of film and humor. But today…today I hate Seth Rogan! His new film “Observe & Report”? Apparently it contains a scene where Rogan’s character date rapes a woman intoxicated on high levels of tequila and anti-depressants. She’s so wasted she actually throws up on herself before it happens. But it’s still funny! Why? Well let’s just hear what Seth has to say:

In an interview with the Washington City Paper he states:

SETH ROGEN: When we’re having sex and she’s unconscious like you can literally feel the audience thinking, like, how the fuck are they going to make this okay? Like, what can possibly be said or done that I’m not going to walk out of the movie theater in the next thirty seconds? . . . And then she says, like, the one thing that makes it all okay:
BRANDI: “Why are you stopping, motherfucker?”

Okay that IS NOT consent! When you are so fucked up that you have vomited on yourself you cannot give informed consent! That line could have been about anything, don’t even assume at that point that’s she’s aware of her circumstances in any but the most random way. Trust me, on one or two occasions I’ve been that drunk and I have things I said recalled to me that I am absolutely horrified by and do things I never would have done sober. The argument that Brandi’s line somehow absolves him of raping her? NO! Let’s look at the fact that he never asked for consent before he started to undress her, he was obviously already set on the goal of sex whether she consented or not and nothing was going to stand in his way. The fact that her random ramblings while supremely intoxicated could be imagined to be INFORMED CONSENT allows Rogan’s charater to continue do what he was already doing while having some sort of balm for his guilt. It also allows the audience of mostly misogynistic and immature men to chuckle in public at something society tells them they should be horrified by. They don’t have to have guilt over having a fucked-up racist as a POV character or enjoying that scene because she said that line and that makes it humor! Funny!

No! 

Rape is NOT funny! Being violated is NOT a joke! Every time you mock sexual assault you make it more okay in the cultural discourse. It becomes a more acceptable act because after all even girls so fucked up they vomit on themselves want it? right? right?

I had heard that Superbad had it’s share of date-rape jokes which is the main reason I’ve never seen it. This film takes it a step further – not only is it acceptable to mock someones emotional anguish over being assaulted but it’s fine and dandy to perform the act! Fuck you Seth Rogan! Last week I hated you in an amorphous kind of way, now I want to punch you in your mouth!

P.S. We won’t even go into the fact that this scene and the violent rape scene from Last House on the Left made it past the MPAA but any hint of any alternative sexuality and there’s no way to get an R rating – ex. The Bruno film from Sasha Baron Cohen. Conflation, intersection of two mindset – firstly that women and women’s pain does not truly matter and so can be shown and mocked with impunity and secondly that any kind of sex act that GLBTQ people engage in is inherently dirty or sinful.

Hat tip to Jezebel: Is Date Rape Funny? Seth Rogan Explains It All To You

Talking Amongst Ourselves

Now something I’m sure most folks who are knowledgeable about anti-oppression politics and discuss them in their everyday life have seen is the attitude that you only hold those beliefs to be politically correct or to be argumentative about “the way things are”. I know when I’ve told people that “No, I talk about these things all the time because they effect my life everyday.” I’ve gotten disbelieving looks or right out accusation that I don’t discuss race when I’m with other People of Color, etc. Now anyone who knows me, has talked to me at a convention or has hung out with me for more than a few hours can tell you that’s bullshit but the attitude is always there, that thought that you only talk this way or feel this way because of the company you’re in or whatever other outside factors. First of all it’s straight out insulting to insinuate that I can’t form my own opinions or that my opinions are so ludicrous that there must be some outside force exerting pressure on me. Secondly it’s just untrue. 

Now the documentary U People which I’ve been desperate to see for months and is now up for free in it’s totality on Logo Online explores the conversation people have within their community. Hanifah Walidah a poet, rapper, actress and black lesbian was filming the video for her song Make A Move where she recreated a house party. Now black GLBT folks have a long history of house parties that stretches back for decades. It arose out of a number of factors but a major one was the racism they tended to encounter when they tried to enter GLBT watering holes and forming a vibrant community outside of that hostile environment. Since they couldn’t go to the limited number of GLBT bars/clubs at the time they made their own parties and clubs in each others houses. Some of the parties were exclusively for men or women and some were mixed. And this is not a tradition that has died out, it’s still alive and strong – moreso on the west coast than anywhere else but the legacy is all over.

Anyway, while Hanifah was filming this music video she heard the conversations that were happening all around her and decided that those were just as important as what was going to end up in the music video. She calls it an accidental documentary for just this reason but go and read about it in her own words at the website linked above.

But there it is: a group of 30 People of Color, mostly lesbian women and a couple of transfolk (I also believe there are two or three straight women who talk about being straight in a majority lesbian environment) talking amongst themselves. Talking about gender and the “definition” of woman, talking about coming out, talking about the intersection of race and gender, and all of it to each other, with each other, about each other. It shows not only the complexity and differences among the supposed monolithic horde of “you people” but is also a chronicle of community and the way we form it around ourselves.

Go check out U People even if you don’t think you’ll learn anything from it because it is a touching, smart and funny documentary that shows a segment of society so exceedingly overlooked by the mainstream.

Even leaving aside the personal connection I feel to this documentary despite not being a lesbian – because in so many ways these are the women I grew up around and connect with very well – it’s an amazing film. Now if only I could see black./womyn.:conversations sometime soon.