Tag Archives: movies

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:

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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. 

We Don’t Get This.

So while I was rejuvenating last week and re-finding inspiration and all that hippy-dippy shit I saw something that made me angry. It was this:

Now let’s ignore for the moment that this latest in the way too long line of “Seth-Roganesque/40-Year-Old-Virgin/SuperBad/socially-awkward-boy-meets-beautiful-intelligent-articulate-girl-who somehow-falls-for-his-dumbass/storyline-that-was-already-done-and-done-better-in-the-eighties/just-playing-to-socially-awkward-guys-who-live-in-their-parents-basement-to-try-and-convince-them-that-no-really-totally-smart-funny-with-it-girls-are-just-waiting-for-you-to-drag-them-to-the-depths-of-mediocrity-really-would-we-lie?” films shows that we’ve reached a point where even the illusion of diversity is totally unnecessary. Watch that trailer. Try to spot a Person of Color anywhere in the cast or background. I saw it 20 times this past week and I couldn’t see one but I might have missed it, so please let me know if you spot one because it seems to me as if there are no People of Color in that weird pastiche of the 70s/80s/90s these movies are all set in. Okay *deep breath* leaving that behind. What really annoys and angers me about these films is that People of Color don’t get to have these narratives.

We don’t get to have the fun summer of growing up film, we don’t get to show our childhoods on screen unless they are somehow tragic. In discussing this with one of my housemates she said the closest film she can think of is Roll Bounce – I’ve never seen it (How many of you have? Or even heard of it? I remember hearing a little bit of something and then it was gone like a whisper in a wind storm) but from what she told me about it it does sound like what I mean. Now obviously that means that sometimes the story does get lit for production, one could maybe argue that Love Don’t Cost A Thing (a remake of 80’s Can’t Buy Me Love) fits the mold as well. But overall the stories of Youths of Color tends to center on Boyz In The Hood  or Hustle & Flow where the story can be about how bad the ghetto is and how hard it is to try and rise above that and we almost inevitably end up dead or right back where we started thereby allowing the audience to feel sympathy for us and at the same time not have to deal with the idea of relating with a Person of Color on an equal level.


(In this one there’s at least a couple of Asian side characters)

And it’s not that the story of the ghetto and the particular intersection of  -isms that result in ghettos don’t need to be explored or aren’t true for some people but that should not be the only stories we get. I want the wild night out story of our own. I want to see the spectrum of People of Color experience on the silver screen. I want to be able to see a film that has the growing up story of a young middle class Latina girl, one where she’s not sexually assaulted, abused, arrested, demonized. I want to see a movie with an all Asian cast but that’s not about overachieving drug dealers (Better Luck Tomorrow) hell we can’t even get an Asian cast when the actual people the story is based on are Asian (21).

Now one could argue there’s no market for these films but that’s a massive oversimplification that ignores the critical and box office success of such films as Waiting To Exhale, Eat Drink Man Woman, Harold & Kumar, Soul Food, Like Water For Chocolate and Independence Day. Now the last may seem like a stretch from what I’m talking about but it fits as well because when I say “We Don’t Get This.” I’m not only talking about the frat-boyish/awkward-teen/buddy-buddy movie genre. I’m talking about the fact that we don’t get a huge diversity of characters so to have a Sci-Fi film where the two heroes are and African-American man and a Jewish man was a huge deal. In all of the movies I list Actors of Color were allowed to play roles that are usually not written  for them and they received praise for their portrayals.

So why don’t we see more films like those?

Because audiences are taught not to expect anything but tragedy from films featuring People of Color. We are conditioned by society in general and media depictions specifically to accept that People of Color can only fall into one of two roles, the ridiculous sidekick or the tragic hero who dies winning/lives on without any changed circumstances/without fulfilling their dream. Even when we prove that stories about us can be hits, that we can be a box office draw it doesn’t seem to open the door for other films that stretch the perceptions of People of Color. It doesn’t get us our own Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally. We still get the occasional non-sterotypical role green-lit but it doesn’t happen that often and when it does happen it rarely gets the promotion or press coverage that it deserves. Yet, I could not turn around without seeing a commercial for the hot-crap-on-screen that is Adventureland.

The movies I listed are exceptions (excluding for Like Water For Chocolate which is definitely a tragedy in my mind) but simply look at the movies that People of Color as actors win Oscars for – Sidney served as labor for some German nuns for no pay. Halle had to play the tragic poor beat down by life black woman and Denzel had to die in war and play a crooked cop, Whoopi was the comic relief/fake-psychic. And I’m not at all saying that they did not deserve the awards they received what I’m trying to get across is that audiences are more comfortable praising us and awarding us accolades is we play a certain role. If anything the actors mentioned deserved to win more than one Oscar a piece for other fantastic roles that stretched their acting prowess.

The sad part is that I like these kinds of films. I would almost definitely enjoy Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist if I were to see it. But I can’t help but wonder when we get to run around Manhattan all night having a good time? When do our crappy summer jobs get chronicled?

Media Friday! 7-18-2008

Thank Jebus it’s Friday y’all, ’cause this week has been the longest ever. It felt like a month. I suspect some sort of warp in the fabric of space-time. So I’m thinking of making my Friday posts all about the media where I post videos or pictures or whatever.

Now many here may not now it but there are certain reality shows that I love (only a few! I can’t help it). At the top of my list is So You Think You Can Dance. My two favorite dances from this week:

Twitch & Comfort – HipHop

Will & Katee – Pas de Deux

And for all you genre fans out there, here’s the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen. For those who don’t know Watchman is a 12 issue mini-series comic, released in the U.K. in 1986/1987 largely thought to be one of the best graphic novels ever. I have major issues with the comic to the point that I have never re-read the story after that first time. These issues have to do with blatant sexism, queerism and racism that thread through the work. I don’t want to spoil anyone but it’s a seriously problematic book. The thing that saves it is the crazy ass political leanings of the characters and the way everything plays out. Moore does fuckedupedness well I just wish the comics weren’t so damn problematic and traumitizing!  

That being said many American comic writers/artists decided to break with the comics code and do their own think after seeing the dark, gritty, real world of Watchmen. It truly made a lot of the “adult” comics I love today possible.

It’ll be interesting to see if the adaptation gets as dark as the comic, which is pretty damn dark. The movie’s not out until March 2009.