Archive for Movies
I have been thinking about Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia recent commentary regarding the Voting Rights Act. A reminder:
And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the
fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial
entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.
I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.
That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.
Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?
Racial entitlement. See, really, what he is arguing here is that we should not make sure to make the right to vote equal access. It is, his mind, to have laws and regulations that take racial inequality are wrong…because really, the law should be colorblind. Conservatives can often get hung up on the notion of the law being colorblind. But the truth is, the law is only successfully colorblind in a culture that is truly colorblind. Of course, conservatives like to claim the culture is colorblind as well. This is not just conservatives though…liberals try and claim to not see color as well.
In an episode of Girls this season, Lena Dunham breaks up with her black conservative boyfriend (played by Donald Glover)…and in the midst of their argument, she tries to argue that he is the racist, because she totally doesn’t see color and his being black was something she had never ever noticed or given thought to. Right. It was a rather perfect little moment of deserved liberal skewering. Dunham’s character is declaring her inability to see color. But here is the fundamental problem. We may think we do not see race…but we often make assumptions about race in our daily lives.
A rather distasteful example was an infamous tweet after the Hunger Games hit theaters. There were several folks that complained that Rue was played by a young black girl named Amandla Stenberg. Barely 13, she was greeted with commentary like:
Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you pictured.
She was not alone. People piled on to complain about the force PC mentality that would alter the original story and change characters so they would not all be white. Except, Rue was described as being dark skinned in the book. They are certainly not white. Yet, these folks all perceived Rue to be white. In Hollywood, colorblind casting calls often end up going with white actors. These are not necessarily conscious actions. But white has been the default of America…most movies and televisions shows were about us. And when given fiction, we often-if given no instruction otherwise- default to white.
Think honestly…if you were reading a book about a hero cop named Ray Johnson and were given no instruction as to his race by the story…what would you picture? An asian guy? A black guy? I think it is pretty safe to assume that in casting the movie of the book, Ray would be played by Tom Cruise.
Getting back to Scalia’s comments. The law will never be colorblind as long as our culture is not. The law will bend to the culture, and if the law refuses to side with equality so it can remain colorblind, the society that sees color will use the law to smash equality, even unintentionally.
The H is silent.
I’ve been thinking a lot on this one. Mainly because it has spurred some anger. Second because it reminds me of this:
But…back to people getting mad…the American Family Association jumped up to defend Jesus.
This past weekend, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” aired an extremely violent and gory segment mocking Jesus Christ…just for laughs. And, it’s available now online thanks to Kmart, Sears and J.C.Penney …TAKE ACTION – Kmart, Sears and J.C. Penney have the responsibility to demand their brands not support programs that mock people of faith. Sears, Kmart and J.C. Penney are underwriting this attack on the Christian faith on NBC network. Let them know you are offended.
I cannot help but feel they missed the joke. You see, Jesus is not the joke here rather Tarantino’s fast and loose use of history for his own cinematic uses. This is especially the case in his recent hits Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. This is not an inherent problem. But the core of the joke is that the Jesus we see in Uncrossed is not the Jesus most people think of when they hear the name. Like Gandhi II, it is based in the fact that we do not see Jesus as that kind of dude.
But you know…there is a sadder truth. This Jesus is not so far than the Jesus reached by some. This is the tough Jesus of guys like Mark Driscoll and others obsessed with “Christian Masculinity”. This version of Jesus is the fuel of end time obsessives. The adherents of Left Behind anxiously await an angry, violent and vengeful Jesus who returns, sword waving, bloodletting and mayhem for the minions of the Anti-Christ (clarification, if you are not a Christian? You are one of these minions deserving a cruel and bloody death-followed by an eternity of suffering). And yet, some of these people are upset that SNL would mock Christ as a vengeful, angry and bloody thirsty God. Which, again, not what is happening. The skit is, again, playing on the fact that most Americans of any belief system do not perceive Jesus as a violent killer. It is an absurd image because most people do not think of Jesus as being like that. They think it is ridiculous. Well, unless you think Tim LeHaye and Mark Driscoll are founts of Wisdom. Then, Djesus Uncrossed is pretty on target.
Or as writer David R. Henson writes:
In the end, whatever the fallout from the skit, American Christianity didn’t need Tarantino or SNL or anyone in Hollywood to think up something as absurd and as base and as hysterically inaccurate as DJesus Uncrossed.
We’ve already done that for ourselves.
I made this the other day…
I am contemplating taking on inexpensive commissions. Like $20 tops (for full color images). Looking to make some extra cash.
Or maybe that is me being silly… you can see some work here.
Sam Neil or Michael York?
If there is one thing you should know about me? It is this:
Hobo With a Shotgun was waaaaay to arthouse for me.
So, once I wrap up my Marvel Movie Roundup, probably in 2016 (at my current rate), I will be starting new project.
It will be a seven year, 986 part exploration on why every movie in the Criterion Collection totally sucks.
(File under: Completely False)
The other day, I checked out a mid-80s flick called Secret Admirer. You can tell it’s the 80s because the film stars C. Thomas Howell, Kelly Preston, Courtney Gaines, Dee Wallace and a whole host of people now regularly appearing in Asylum and Sy Fy films.
The basic (very rom com) premise is this:
C. Thomas Howell is friends with Kelly Preston and Lori Loughlin (her most famous role is the girlfriend of John Stamos’ Uncle Jesse on Full House). Lori like C. C. likes Kelly. Kelly dates college guys. One day, C. gets a letter from a secret admirer. He thinks it might be Kelly, so with Lori’s help, C. starts sending Kelly anonymous letters (that he writes using greeting cards). C.’s mom finds the letter C. received and thinks it was written to her husband-so she starts to suspect an affair. C.s father is taking night classes and finds the letter stuff in one of his books and think it is from his instructor. The instructor (who happens to be Kelly’s mother) finds the letter and is tempted to have an affair. Kelly’s dad finds one of the letters and presumes his wife is already having an affair.
I had a tumblr post noting the humorous fact that the character Toni (played by Lori Loughlin) is the smart, fun plain jane…except she is not all that plain. It is a pretty old trope…but there is a wealth of examples of Hollywood Homely.
The film is pretty guilty of following standard rom com expectations. But it was refreshing that while Preston’s character is an airhead, she is not a villain. She is a person who is doing what is expected of her and trying to please people…but she is not a bad person. You don’t really root against her, even though all of our sympathy is basically at the feet of Loughlin’s Toni.
Toni constantly throws herself under the bus for her friends, which is problematic, but she is also the smart witty, fun and cute friend we know C. should have been into all along. The film does take a more honest look at sexuality, specifically in a scene with Howell and Preston where it falls apart because they are both far to inexperienced. It is completely unromanticized and is simply awkward. It also provides the moment of realization that his romantic vision of a relationship with Preston is different than the reality.
In a moment where I am torn between if it is thoughtful or insulting, Howell tells Loughlin that he was not sure what he expected dating Preston would be like…but that when it came down to it, he assumed it would be a lot like his friendship with Loughlin.
I feel like director David Greenwalt (who went on to work with Joss Whedon and helped guide Buffy and Angel) had lofty goals of a comedy that was much more painfully honest about teenaged relationships. He does not manage to avoid the major traps…but still manages some moments of thoughtfulness that hint at his future with the Whedonverse.
This week, discussions I was a part of collided. Over in political land, it was a discussion about the Website Jezebel. In case you were unaware, after Obama was re-elected, Twitter and Facebook lit up with dis-satisfied voters who thought the best response to the news was racism and hate. Some of these people were teenagers doing that thing teens do so well…say stupid things. Jezebel was understandably put off by these comments. Their response was to compile a list of these folks…their names, their schools, their extra-curricular activities, what sports they play, etc. The idea is, apparently, to really hit these kids by ruining their chances at college and so on.
In comic world, the other day, someone found a website post Director James Gunn did two years back (possibly closer to three). It was a list of the 35 comic book characters folks want to have sex with. So, it was a mature list. I was actually familiar with the list…and the less controversial list (one with none of the commentary that bothered people) has comments by me. I used to be pretty active at Gunn’s site. He was very interactive, and in spite of random moments that made me cringe, seemed pretty open minded. The list I commented on, Gunn and I had an exchange about our shock that the only Watchman character to make the list? Comedian. Seriously. The rapist. The list was compiled by a vote, and on one version of the list, Gunn made commentary that was a bit…uncomfortable. Rachel Edidin addresses it nicely.
Some have stated it was satire of Misogyny. Maybe. But it failed because it did not lampoon the outdated attitudes…it seemed more to lampoon it’s subjects. But the point is, people wanted to do something about it. And this is where stuff collided. People seemed to want to destroy Gunn.
I am not crazy at all over the idea that the right answer when someone offends us is to try and get them fired. People have the right to express the most heinous of ideas. I have every right to decide whether I want to give them my money. I have every right to express how wrong I think they are. I have every right to take to twitter and express that. Or Facebook. It is important to have that outlet of protest. But when we take it the step ahead and force destruction to rain on their heads, we start to lose our righteous ground. Especially, I am concerned because these are tactics that were used on the left for decades. Threat to out gay people, petitions to get people with unpopular opinions fired, etc. Look at the pro-life movement. There were some within the movement that publicized the names and addresses of doctors who performed abortions. As some doctors were shot and killed, they were crossed off the lists in blood.
Do we want to have a legacy like that? Where we start keeping a list of people who “think correctly” and those who fail to meet our standards are not allowed to move on in life? Do we really think it is different when we do it to them? It’s somehow different to try and get someone fired because they are homophobic than to get someone fired because they are gay? Should something you said years ago be held in higher regard than where you are now? The person I was long ago held very different opinions on issues than the person writing this post. There was a time in my life that I saw homosexuality as evil. I was vehemently pro-life. Do the views I evolved to mean less than the ones I held when I was decades younger? I cannot comfortably agree that punishing kids as Jezebel seeks to do is wise or good. It is not the right step forward. Especially hurting their ability to get into schools. Yes, lets try and keep them teens from going to the place that often results in a personal re-evaluation of one’s beliefs.
Gunn, btw, apologized. And hey, he avoids the “sorry you were offended”…he takes credit for the failure on his own. Considering that other recent offenders took the “Stop being offended route? (including defenders of Gunn) it was kind of refreshing.
So, I had a huge draft about the bad choice of trying to tie the Man of Steel and the Future Justice League movie to the Nolan Batman films via casting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Batman. It was a bit long and explained in detail why I find this a bad choice. Then I lost the entire draft. Yay auto save for not coming to the rescue.
To boil it down:
1. There is no room in the Nolan Batworld for super powers.
2. If these super powered people existed, why did they let Gotham sit under Bane’s tyranny for three months with no sign of Batman?
3. The dynamic of Bruce/Clark/Diana matters, and removing one from the mix impacts how the league works.
4. A fresh start would work better for a Movie DCU franchise. Which is clearly what WB wants here.
I think JGL is a great and talented actor. I do not think using the Nolan Batworld to kick off the Movie DCU is wise.
No doubt, the fan favorite of of the X-Men films was the comics fan favorite Wolverine. Hugh Jackman held his own with some top talent in those first two films… a solo Wolverine film was kind of a no-brainer. And putting it in the hands of the director of the stunning Tsotsi, Gavin Hood seemed like a terrific idea. Then casting started to leak… Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (what a good choice), Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth-wait…what? In the first X-Men Movie, Sabertooth was played by wrestler Tyler Mane. Now, the change in actors is no big deal, It happens. But the first movie played off the characters as unfamiliar with each other. Wolverine’s memory loss is his easy defense…Sabertooth’s? Don’t know.
The film begins in the 1800′s with a sickly young boy. Sitting with him is a slightly older boy who is whittling with his fingernails. The sick boy’s father steps in to tend to his on when there is a sudden commotion downstairs. The father leaves, and there is some yelling followed by a shotgun blast. The boys rush downstairs…the sick boy sees his dead father and the shooter, who tries to tell the boy something, but the young man (who we learn is named James) is enrage…he realizes there is something happening with his hands…he becomes horrified as claws of bone protrude from his hands…the rage returns and he lunges at his father’s shooter-killing him. In the shooter’s dying breath, he says he is James’ true father. The young boys run.
This leads into a really nice montage of the young men growing to adult hood as soldiers in a series of wars, world war one, two and so on…finally settling on Vietnam …Jame’s brother Victor goes ballistic and kills civilians, as James tries to stop him…they end up being court marshaled. They are recruited by Stryker (Danny Huston) who is putting together a special ops team comprised of mutants. After a mission snafu, James, now called Wolverine walks.
Wolverine hides out in the wilds of Canada where he meets a beautiful young woman named Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins). They fall in love and live in a cabin. After she is killed (as super-hero girlfriends are prone to do) by Sabertooth, Wolverine seeks revenge. After Sabertooth trounces him, Wolverine is approached by Stryker with an offer to make him stronger. Agreeing Wolverine is subjected to a painful experiment, giving him the famed adamantium skeleton. Then they try and double cross Wolverine.
He escapes and meets up with surviving members of Stryker’s crew, discovering that Stryker has a secret plan to build the ultimate mutant soldier that he can control. Wolverine finds out that Stryker is kidnapping young mutants and using his brother to do the deed. Wolverine runs off to the secret base with the help of Gambit (who doesn’t do much beyond fly Wolverine there and wish him luck.
A final confrontation results in Wolverine and Sabertooth fight Deadpool to the kind of death, Wolverine losing his memory via a magic Adamantium bullet and Kayla’s death-but not before sending Stryker for a long walk, and a digital Professor X who needs no chair.
The truth is, this film is what you call a major mess. By setting it in a vague “the 70′s” you start forcing the films into a specific timeline. The first three X-Men films all took place in the near future. The film features a high school age Psyclops. Making him in his mid to late 40s. Actor James Marsten was about 27 at the release of the first X-Men. And there are the confusing aspects of why nobody seems to remember this moment of history. It is hard to believe that Professor X new where to pick up all those kids and yet is oblivious to Wolverine.
The real positives of the films are the strong casting choices (Lost’s Kevin Durant is great as the Blob…Danny Huston, Liev Schreiber and Ryan Reynolds are strokes of genius). Jackman shows why he owns the character on screen again. The performances are mostly good…but they are in a story that seems overly convoluted and needlessly confusing-even by comic book standards. It has a nice beginning, but it falls apart quickly. It has some very goofy action set pieces and some legit humor going for it.
A sort of repost from almost a decade ago.
I watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles early this morning, per my Thanksgiving tradition. I still love this movie, one of John Hughes’ finest moments. The reason it really resonates for me is the two central characters. Candy plays Dell Griffiths so well…you really see this well meaning guy who just wants to be included in the lives of others. He is desperate for a real connection. In my life, there are times where I have felt exactly like Dell Griffiths. Wanting to be cared about and loved, but being overly chatty and pushy. Dell begins coming off as an obnoxious chatterbox oblivious to the reactions of those around him. truthfully, you can understand while Neil Page (Steve Martin) begins a mounting frustration with Griffiths. and yet, When Martin goes off on him early in the movie, you see the pain in Candy’s eyes, as if he is hearing every bad thing about himself that he is all too familiar with…and it’s being dumped on his lap. He desperately wants a friend, and yet he sees how he screws it up. And this guy he is trying to become friends with has expounded with painful precision every lousy failure he has.
Other times, I totally identify with Steve Martin’s Neil Page. Uptight, wanting to make things work without interference from the outside world. When he pridefully tears down Dell in the previously mentioned hotel scene, Martin shows great shame after Dell responds. Neil realizes what he’s said was cruel. He’s impatient when life doesn’t go as he planned. Neil does not want to involve anyone in his life not connected to his family. Dell is a pain in the ass speed bump in getting to those thing. I GET his explosion in the hotel. He has hit his limits, and simply does not pause to think about what he is saying and the impact it might have. In a way, I suspect Neil thinks he is doing a favor for Dell. He is telling him what a lousy person Griffiths is for Dell’s own benefit. It isn’t true of course.
The film is really about Neil seeing beyond himself and his life, Griffiths is painfully aware of his flaws, and without Dell, Neil might never have seen his own human failings. It’s a heroes’ journey where the monsters are cars, trains, planes and the elements instead of vengeful gods, kings, serpents and minotaurs.
I want to be Neil Page at the end of the movie…a guy able to connect the dots and exhibit compassion and an open hand…someone who can see the deep seated heartbreak in a stranger and bring them to their Thanksgiving Feast table. Instead, all to often I am the Neil Page of the beginning of the movie. I want to be thoughtful and generous…instead, I am selfish and consumed by worries much of the time. God have mercy on my soul.